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Josiah Walls was born on this date in 1842. He was a Black soldier, teacher, and politician. He has the awkward distinction of twice being unseated in Congress by opponents who challenged the election.
Born a slave near Winchester, VA, Josiah Thomas Walls attended school in Harrisburg, PA. His military career began when he was forced into the Confederate Army, but northern forces captured him in 1862 at Yorktown. In 1863, Walls entered the third infantry regiment, United States Colored Troops, becoming a corporal. He was discharged in Florida, where he began working in Alachua County at a sawmill as a teacher.
In 1867, he was elected to represent his county at the upcoming Florida Constitutional Convention. Walls participated in several national conventions held to have discussions about problems facing Blacks. In 1870, Republicans nominated him for the state’s lone seat in the House of Representatives, where he won a narrow victory. He took his seat, accepting assignments on the Militia and Expenditures Committees. Walls’ opponent Silas NiBlack protested the vote count, though Walls said voters were intimidated at the polls. Still, after two months, the Committee on Elections unseated Walls.
While in office, though, Walls put forth several proposals. One sought to establish a national education fund with money coming from public land sales. He also introduced bills for relief of private pensioners and Seminole War veterans. In 1874 he lost a recount after victory over Jesse Finley.
Frustrated, he left the state senate in 1879, returning to run his sawmill, a lettuce, tomato, and orange farm. Josiah Walls died on May 15, 1905.
Reference: Black Americans In Congress, 1870-1989.
Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Treese
U.S. Government Printing Office
Raymond W. Smock, historian and director 1990