10 Covers Starring L. douglas Wilder 

Wilder first appeared on our cover taking second billing to the Fall Fashion preview of 1985. Since then, he's earned headlines (one way or another) that often eclipse all other news. We've been accused of being too hooked on Wilder, and maybe those critics are right. By our calculations, he's appeared on Style's cover more than any other person.

Our readers don't seem to mind. And some journalists are jealous. One Charlottesville editor recently opined that he'd give anything to have a mayor like Wilder in his town. Since 1982, Wilder has been the focus of 10 covers, including twice at the top of Richmond's Power List and thrice as Richmonder of the Year. Most recently, he landed on the cover with the headline, "Recall?" Here's a look back.

1. Aug. 13, 1985
Looking Out for Number 2: Chichester versus Wilder. The race is on for the lieutenant governor's job.

"I simply can't believe that all of Virginia's great men lived 300 years ago," Wilder says. The lawyer who would become Virginia's first black lieutenant governor is shown beside the white insurance man who thinks the liberal element ruined the Democratic Party (State Sen. John H. Chichester now serves as the state senate's president pro tempore).

"If the media would stop talking about how a black doesn't stand a chance of winning in Virginia and start looking at my qualifications," Wilder says in the story, "the public might have the opportunity to show the rest of the country some of that magnificent tradition of free thinking that has made Virginia the birthplace of five presidents."

The self-titled "pragmatic dreamer" says he's looking to better the economy, improve the corrections systems and upgrade the quality of education.

2. Jan. 14, 1986
Richmonder of the Year 1985

As Style Weekly's first Richmonder of the Year, Wilder set precedent as a person "whose contributions in 1985 had the greatest impact on the Richmond metropolitan area and on the quality of life of Richmond residents."

It's all about attitudes, Wilder -- the first elected black lieutenant governor since Reconstruction. He talks of positive attitude changes, like the value of accepting individuals on merit instead of skin color. America and Virginia beam at the notion. Wilder emphasizes social progress as well as plans to fix the deteriorating discipline in schools and the laxity in punishment of criminals.

3. Oct. 17, 1989
On the Road Again: Doug Wilder and Marshall Coleman in the homestretch

Now campaigning for governor, Widler's platform is protecting Virginia's future education system and abortion laws from Republican J. Marshall Coleman. The Times-Dispatch labels Wilder's traveling staff as "the children's crusade … youthful, highly idealistic and wildly unprofessional." The group, which had T-shirts printed up with those exact words, followed Wilder from town to town as he spoke directly to people, making eye contact and remembering names. A Virginia Commonwealth University professor of political science says Wilder "clearly does not shy away from an unconventional staff and advisers.

4. Jan. 2, 1990
Richmonder of the Year 1989: Gov. L. Douglas Wilder. A tribute in photographs.

A unanimous Style-coordinated council of the city's finest elects Wilder as Richmonder of the Year — and that includes then-City Councilman Henry Marsh. (Now the lawyer hired by the Richmond School Board to stop its eviction from City Hall.)

Developer Gary Fenchuk says that Wilder represents the opportunity to regain some pride and sense of accomplishment, comparing his beginnings and policies to those of Ronald Reagan. Richmond was proud of its progress in race relations, slow as it may have been. Wilder had worked to pass the Martin Luther King Day observance and fought against the slavery references in the Virginia state song. The article overflows with American pride: the flag, the train platform speeches and the Capitol portico gathering to swear Wilder in as Virginia's first elected black governor. Wilder is officially the people's champion.

5. Oct. 15, 1991

How They Stack Up: The governor's future rests firmly on the shoulders of politicos Jay Shropshire and Paul Goldman.

The Wilder totem sets firmly on the governor's Chief of Staff Jay Shropshire, with the base on Wilder's political strategist Paul Goldman. The "governor-who-would-be-president," as the article describes him, is about to face a defining moment with his first biennial budget coming up, and he relies almost entirely on these two men.

Wilder historically keeps a small circle of confidants and ventures outside that posse only to deal with questions of economics, education or environment. His views generate from within, and his team keeps him in check — and in the public's eye.

6. Oct. 27, 2004
The Next Mayor: The juggernaut. The men who want to beat him. And the new power structure at City Hall.

This collaborative effort by six Style Weekly journalists compares and contrasts the candidates in the mayoral race that's launched after the city charter is historically altered to enable a popularly elected mayor.

The article follows Wilder and those other guys (former Richmond School Board member Charles H. Nance, an attorney; incumbent Mayor Rudy C. McCollum Jr.; and architect Lawrence E. Williams Sr.). Wilder is, as usual, the center of attention. Women kiss him cordially on the cheek and men shake his hand. The prodigal son of Richmond has returned to "cut the fat" out of local government. The public adores him and leaves other potential mayors scrambling to catch up. He ends up winning with an 80 percent mandate. And, by the way, this new city charter has a lot of gray areas ready for interpretation.

7. July 20, 2005
The Power List 2005: Our annual ranking of Richmond's most powerful people.

Now mayor, Wilder bumps even Gov. Mark Warner to gain the No. 1 ranking of the most powerful person in Richmond. He does it by using "his unique blend of confrontational politics and infectious charm," the article explains. Those include: slashing everyone out of the city budget and demanding every group to prove why he should give them money, and going up against City Council, Jim Ukrop and the School Board. That's not to mention an office prop: "Every so often, in his office at City Hall, he lovingly pulls out his Louisville Slugger and chuckles about using it."

8. Jan. 4, 2006
Richmonder of the Year 2005: Mayor L. Douglas Wilder.

"Love him or hate him, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder has shaken Richmond to its core. But can we survive another three years?" asks the headline of this year's Richmonder of the Year article. The third-time Richmonder of the Year has already attacked the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation and then attacked Jim Ukrop with a slavery metaphor. Some of the talent at City Hall has left, a number by choice, and the public is questioning when Wilder will start to improve schools as his campaign platform promised. It's this topic that leads into the most recent Wilder cover — which by no means will be the last.

9. July 26, 2006
The Power List: Our third annual ranking of the people who run this town.

City Council has overturned his vetoes. The murder rate is climbing. There's even been a protest (albeit tiny) in the street! And the city's first popularly elected mayor since the 1940s just can't seem to find good help. But he still has that mandate, and he's the only guy who knows how to command the front page of the Times-Dispatch at will and get every TV news crew in his conference room within 10 minutes. But some people have grown tired of the grandstanding, the fighting and the bear investigating. The skepticism boils down to this: Eighteen months after taking office, what has the mayor really accomplished? The Wilder legend has taken him this far. Now what's he going to do with his power?

10. Oct. 3, 2007
Recall? The growing bewilderment over Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's leadership.

A recall petition circulates just a week after the mayor forcibly tries to evict the School Board from City Hall and fails. The battle between Wilder, City Council and the schools rages on. Those standoffs, including testing power in the new city charter, has cost an estimated $304,635 in outside lawyers' fees (according to a Style Weekly analysis of public records). Former totem-pole buddy and confidant to Wilder Paul Goldman says that "Wilder's problem is he doesn't want to be a strong mayor — he wants to be an unchecked mayor." With all the chaos and dissent at City Hall, people wonder if this could be Wilder's last stand. But Wilder maintains he's just doing what he was elected to do, and he just might be doing it for another four years. Elections are 13 months away, and Wilder's larger-than-life persona makes him a tough candidate to beat.

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