- Category : 1931-births
- Type : GP
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Laws 4
American politician, the first elected black Governor in U.S. history, winning the Virginia gubernatorial race in 1989. A leading African-American political star, Wilder ran a four-month presidential campaign before dropping out of the race in January 1992. Wilder has always run as the "underdog" in his political campaigns and has surprised political observers with his popularity among voters.
Wilder was born into poverty in Richmond, VA as the ninth of ten kids. His dad worked as a salesman for a black insurance company. The family was so poor he remembers stuffing his shoes with newspaper when they had holes. An excellent student, he was barred from attending the University of Virginia because of his color. He went to school at the all-black Virginia Union University, waiting on tables to pay for his tuition. In 1951, he earned his chemistry degree.
Wilder was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1952 and fought at Pork Chop Hill in Korea. He won the Bronze Star for valor in combat and was discharged in 1953. He worked as a toxicologist for Virginia's state medical examiner's office. On a state stipend, he attended Howard University Law School in DC to earn his law degree. In 1960, he opened his law practice and soon became a successful, well-to-do lawyer.
Wilder used his money to run for the Virginia state senate in 1969. As an African-American state senator with hip clothes and fashionable afro, many of his fellow state senators objected to his style and the changes he represented in Virginia Democratic party politics. In 1970, he was denied an invitation to the state legislators' party at the all-white Commonwealth Club in Richmond, the same club where he had worked as a busboy during his college days. In 1982, the head of the Virginia Democratic party refused to escort Wilder into the still all-white sections of the Commonwealth Club. Wilder almost quit the Democratic Party over the outrage.
In 1985, Wilder came from behind to win the office of lieutenant governor in Virginia. He won with his tough stand on law-and-order and his tightly run campaign organization even with the lack of support from Democratic governor Charles S. Robb. After the end of his governorship, he initiated his own radio program in Richmond while practicing law.
Married with three attractive kids, a son and two daughters, he and his wife, Eunice, divorced in 1978, bitterly. Their daughter Lynn was born in 1959, son Larry in 1962 and Loren in 1963. He lives in a 15-room Georgian house in Richmond, VA. Virginia society began to buzz in 1990 when he began seeing Pat Kluge, newly divorced from her billionaire husband. His friendship with the Kluges dates back to his early days as a gubernatorial candidate, when they were his top campaign contributors.