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Mon, 09.30.1850

Josiah Settle, Lawyer and Politician born

Josiah Settle, 1887

*Josiah Settle was born on this date in 1850. He was a Black lawyer and politician.

Josiah "Joe" Thomas Settle was born into slavery in the Cumberland Mountains of East Tennessee or North Carolina to Nancy Settle. His father owned the family, also named Josiah. And at the time of his birth, his master moved the household to Mississippi. His father was a wealthy slave trader and had two daughters with his first wife, who died in 1829 in childbirth. Nancy Ann was a slave of Azariah Graves, a North Carolina militia general in the War of 1812.

Josiah Sr. felt devoted to Settle's mother and children by her, and in the 1850s, manumitted her and their children. As the state forbade the presence of free blacks, in March 1856, they moved to Hamilton, Ohio, although Settle kept his slaves and plantation in Mississippi and lived there in the fall, winter, and spring. In 1858 Josiah's parents married, and in 1861, when the American Civil War began, the elder Josiah sold his land and enslaved people in Mississippi, moved to Ohio, and supported the Union. He died in the spring of 1869.

Settle first attended schools near Hamilton, Ohio. In the spring of 1866, Settle started preparatory school in Oberlin, Ohio, and entered Oberlin College in 1868. At Oberlin, Settle played on an integrated baseball club that played against several semipro and professional clubs. The following year Settle entered the Sophomore class at Howard University. He graduated from Howard in 1872 in the school's first class, along with James Monroe Gregory and Arthur Clough O'Hear.  During his last two years at Howard, Settle clerked in the education division of the Freedmen's Bureau and began teaching at the university before graduating; after graduation joined the law department and was admitted to the D.C. bar.

He supported Ulysses Grant in the 1872 Presidential Election and campaigned in Maryland and his home state of Ohio. He returned to Mississippi in March 1875 and was admitted to the bar in that state. His work at first brought him to various locations throughout the state, settling in northwest Mississippi and forming a partnership with D. T. J. Matthews. In the summer of that year, he married Theresa T. Vogelsang from Annapolis, Maryland. She was the only daughter of William and Charity Bishop, who were prominent freedmen in Maryland. In August, he was nominated for District Attorney of the Twelfth Judicial District in Mississippi, and Settle lost. In 1876 and 1880, he was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions.

In 1882, Settle was encouraged to run for Congress. Settle was made chairman of the Republican Congressional Executive Committee and campaigned vigorously. In 1883, the Republicans and independent Democrats again sought a joint ticket for the state legislature, which Settle opposed. Settle ran for a seat that year as an independent and was elected by a large majority. He was very successful as a speaker in the legislature but decided to sit for only one term. After adjournment, he decided to move to Memphis and focus on law. In the spring of 1885, shortly after moving to Memphis, he was appointed Assistant Attorney-General in Shelby County.

On March 20, 1890, Settle married Fannie McCullough, music director at Lemoyne Normal Institute. The Settles lived on South Orleans Street and had two sons, Josiah T., and Temoy. In private practice in 1905, he and Benjamin F. Booth represented Mary Morrison in a case challenging state law mandating segregation on street cars. However, the judge ruled in favor of the state law. In 1900, Settle reported that "We have faced unreasoning prejudice. We have found, not our clients, but ourselves on trial, and not ourselves alone, but the whole race with us."

In the early 1910s, Booker T. Washington wrote that Settle told Washington that he did not face discrimination from judges, lawyers, or juries as a lawyer. In 1906, Settle, Robert Reed Church, M. L. Clay, and T. H. Hayes founded the Solvent Bank and Trust Company at 392 Beale Street in Memphis. He attended Emmanuel Episcopal Church and helped organize a Memphis chapter of Sigma Pi Phi along with James Carroll Napier of Nashville. Settle was the first president of the National Negro Bar Association (N.N.B.A.), serving from 1905 until 1913. Josiah Settle died in Memphis on August 21, 1915, after a long illness.

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