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This Day (A Wilder Hotchkiss Edition)

January 17th, 2013 by Brendan Wolfe · No Comments

On this day in 1899, Jedediah Hotchkiss died in Staunton, Virginia. A New York native, Hotchkiss opened a school in 1859 in Augusta County, but his first love was mapmaking. As a staff officer to Confederate general Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson during the American Civil War, he exploited his topographical skills to great effect during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862.

Thirty-two years later, the future Virginia governor Lawrence Douglas Wilder was born in the segregated Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond. His paternal grandparents had been enslaved in Goochland County. The seventh of eight children, Wilder was named for the African American writers Paul Laurence Dunbar and Frederick Douglass. His father, Robert, was an insurance salesman, and the younger Wilder recalled a childhood of “gentle poverty.” His mother, Beulah, encouraged his education by making him learn a new word every day from a crossword puzzle. His aunt, meanwhile, held formal teas where all the children were expected to perform. Wilder later said he learned at these events how to speak in front of crowds.

A version of this post was originally published on January 17, 2012.

IMAGES: Left: On March 28, 1981, Wilder addresses a crowd of about 200 during a rally held to show support for efforts to find the murderer of at least 20 black children in Atlanta. With him at the rally in Capitol Square in Richmond was the Rev. Robert G. Murray, vice president of the Richmond Committee of Black Clergy (Richmond Times-Dispatch); right: Hotchkiss poses with his wife, Sara Ann, and his daughters, Nellie and Anne, in an 1870 albumen silver carte-de-visite (Virginia Historical Society)

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