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First African American Governor Speaks at SU’s Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Jan. 7, 2009

Selinsgrove, (Pa.)—One day before the historic inauguration of Barack Obama, former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder will be the featured speaker Jan. 19 at Susquehanna University’s third annual Winter Convocation on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The topic of Wilder’s address will be, “Martin Luther King Jr. and the Work Still to Be Done.”

Wilder became the nation’s first elected African-American governor in 1990 and served in that capacity until 1994. He also served as Virginia’s lieutenant governor in 1985, making him the nation’s highest ranking elected African-American at the time, and he served for a number of years in the Virginia state legislature. In 2004, after championing the creation of an elected mayor position in Virginia’s capital city, Richmond, he became its first elected mayor.

Wilder graduated from Virginia Union University in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Shortly after graduating, he was drafted into the United States Army. During the Korean War, he received the Bronze Star for heroism in ground combat for rescuing wounded GIs and capturing enemy troops.

When he decided to take advantage of the GI Bill to study law, he had to leave the state because Virginia at the time barred African-Americans from its law schools. Following his graduation from Howard University Law School, he returned to his old neighborhood in Richmond to establish a private practice.

A truncated class schedule will allow all university faculty, staff and students to observe Martin Luther King Day as a community. The formal program, which is free and open to the public, begins at 11:15 a.m. in Weber Chapel Auditorium.

Susquehanna President L. Jay Lemons will provide opening remarks and will discuss how the legacy of Martin Luther King continues to challenge and inspire all Americans. Chaplain Mark Radecke will offer remarks during the convocation, and the winner of a student essay contest will read the winning entry.

The Susquehanna University Symphonic Band, conducted by Eric Hinton, will perform Celebration by Adolphus Hailstork and A Movement for Rosa by Mark Camphouse. The Susquehanna University Chorale, directed by Judith White, will perform This Little Light of Mine by Moses Hogan. The Susquehanna University Jazz Ensemble, conducted by Josh Davis, will close the musical offerings with the Charles Mingus piece Better Git Hit in Your Soul, as arranged by Sy Johnson.

King once said, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?” In keeping with this philosophy, Susquehanna students, faculty and staff will participate in a number of community service activities that evening at sites throughout the area, including the Donald Heiter Community Center, Golden Living Center, Haven Ministry, and Manor at Penn Village Nursing Home, Priestly Forsyth Memorial Library, Ronald McDonald House of Danville, Sunbury YMCA and the Union-Snyder Community Action Agency.

Contact: Gerald Cohen


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