Friday, December 9, 2011

The First African American Governor

The first African American to become a United States Governor, Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was sworn in December 9th 1872.

Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was born May 10th 1837 in Macon, Bibb, Georgia to Eliza Stewart a former slave and her former owner William Pinchback.  His father bought a large plantation in Mississippi shortly after Pinchback’s birth and he moved his family there.  Pinchback was raised white and was sent to school in Cincinnati, Ohio.  When his father died in 1848 he left school and worked for a while on the river before settling in Terre Haute, Indiana where he worked at a hotel.

When the Civil War started Pinchback went to New Orleans where he received a commission to Captain in the Union 1st Louisiana Native Guards, an all black regiment.  After being passed over for promotion in favor of white officers, he resigned his command in 1863.

After the war Pinchback became active in the Republican Party in New Orleans.  He was elected as a State Senator in 1868 and served as the senate president pro tem.  When Oscar Dunn died in 1871 Pinchback became Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana.  In 1872 the Republican governor Henry Clay Warmoth was impeached and Pinchback became governor on December 9th 1872.  He served for 35 days.  He went on to be elected to the United State House of Representatives and the Senate, but his elections were overturned and his Democratic opponent was seated instead.  In 1885 Pinchback went to Dillard University and became a lawyer, final moving to Washington, DC where he had a practice.

Pinchback died December 21st 1821 in Washington, DC.  He is buried in the Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans.  It wouldn’t be until 1990 when Douglas Wilder became governor of Virginia that the United States had another African American governor.

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