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On this day in 1990

Jan. 13, 1990 

Douglas Wilder, former governor of Richmond, Va. Credit: Courtesy of the National Park Service

Douglas Wilder, who became the first Black American elected governor since Reconstruction, took office in Richmond, Virginia. 

Named after both abolitionist Frederick Douglass and poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, he worked his way through Virginia Union University before being drafted into the Korean War. During the Battle of Pork Chop, he and two fellow soldiers were cut off from their unit. When they ran into 19 Chinese soldiers, they bluffed them into surrendering. Wilder was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for his bravery. 

Back in the U.S., he became a lawyer, and in 1969 won a seat in the Virginia State Senate, becoming the first African American elected to the body since Reconstruction. In 1985, he was elected lieutenant governor, and four years later won as governor. The winning margin? Less than one-half percent.


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