(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – The keynote speaker for UCM’s annual Freedom Scholarship dinner is the nation’s first elected black governor – L. Douglas Wilder.
Wilder will speak during the annual dinner, which is a fundraiser for the University of Central Missouri Freedom Scholarships program. The dinner is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, and highlights the university’s 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.
Wilder was first elected to the Virginia State Senate and then was elected lieutenant governor in 1985. Following his election as governor in 1990, Wilder took office at a time when a shaky national economy left the state a budget crisis not seen since World War II. Faced with a project tax shortfall of $1.4 billion, the governor implemented a successful program of reduced spending. He was a Democratic candidate for president in 1992.
After his term as governor ended in 1994, Wilder played a major role in the development of The National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg, Va. He also championed the creation of the post of elected mayor of Richmond, Va., to which he was elected in 2004.
Wilder’s willingness to break with the leadership of his own party made him one of the five most influential members of the Virginia State Senate. He chaired the powerful Privileges and Elections Committee, which oversees state appointments and voting legislation. He also advocated fair housing legislation, labor union rights for public employees, and more minority hiring in private businesses.
Wilder graduated from Virginia Union University in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He then served in the U.S. Army in the Korean War, receiving the Bronze Star for heroism in ground combat for rescuing wounded GIs and capturing enemy troops.
He was unable to enroll in law school in Virginia because state law barred enrollment of African Americans in its law schools. However, Wilder took advantage of the GI Bill and graduated from the Howard University School of Law, returning to Richmond to private practice.
Wilder is the recipient of the NAACP Springarn Medal, the Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Medallion of Honor, and a Citation of Honor for Contributions to American Politics.
Tickets for the dinner are available by contacting the UCM Diversity Office at 660-543-4156, or the Greater Warrensburg Area Chamber of Commerce at 100 S. Holden St. Tickets may be purchased at the Bronze Level for $50, Silver Level for $75, or the Gold Level at $100. Table sponsorships also are available.
During the past 15 years, 174 students have received Freedom Scholarships to attend UCM. The 14 recipients of the 2012 Freedom Scholarships will be honored at 2013 event. All currently are enrolled at UCM.
In addition to the Freedom Scholarship Dinner, 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration events include:
For more information, visit ucmo.edu/diversity/mlk.