Ralph Northam second VMI grad elected as Virginia's governor

Last democratic governor graduated from VMI in 1877

LEXINGTON, Va. – Cadets at Virginia Military Institute choose many careers after graduation. But it's been exactly 100 years between governors from the institute.

Virginia elected Westmoreland Davis as a Democratic governor in 1917. His picture now hangs in the admissions office on post. 

"It was Gov. Davis that established the state highway transportation system. He also came into office as a anti-prohibition candidate," said Keith Gibson.

The director of the VMI museum  says Davis was the youngest cadet to graduate from VMI in 1877, at 14 years old. He was also at the bottom of his class.

"He became a self-made man and became a lawyer after VMI and did quite well," said Gibson. 

And Gibson says there was no indication Davis set out to become a governor until much later. 

"The farmers needed someone to represent them in state politics and I think that's what stimulated his interest in running for that position," said Gibson.

Much like Davis, Gov.-elect Ralph Northam started out on a different career path.

"VMI helped me greatly and shaped me into who I am. I took a commission into the United States Army. When I graduated I rose to the rank of major," said Northam.

Northam graduated from VMI in 1981. He says the military college played a major role in his election as governor. 

"After a hundred years, it's time to have another cadet in the governor's office and it's time to have another doctor,'' said Northam. 

And there are plans for Northam and VMI to reconnect in the future. 

"We're already making arrangements to have the corps march in our inauguration parade," he said. 

"I think that will be a reflective moment for him, thinking, 'This is where I began,' said Gibson. 


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