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Mon, 05.29.1848

Lloyd G. Wheeler, Businessman born

Lloyd Wheler

*Lloyd Wheeler was born on this date in 1848.  was a Black attorney, businessman, philanthropist, and political leader.  

Lloyd Garrison Wheeler was born in Mansfield, Ohio. His father was active in the underground railroad movement, providing secret accommodations for escaping slaves from the South en route to freedom in Canada.  With the illegal status of underground railroad activity, the family moved to Chatham, Ontario, Canada, and it was there that Wheeler attended school.  

Following the death of his mother, then 11-year-old Wheeler returned to the United States, settling in Chicago, where he would work in various jobs.  Gaining a position as the first Black mail carrier in Chicago, Wheeler took advantage of his free time to begin studying law, reading in the office of local attorney George Bellows.  Wheeler gained admission to Union College of Law, a forerunner of the Northwestern School of Law, and in 1869 passed the Illinois state bar examination to become a practicing attorney.  

He was the first Black admitted to the bar in Illinois. Wheeler moved South from Illinois to Arkansas. In 1870, he was a delegate to the Arkansas Republican state convention and, by the following year, had been admitted to the Arkansas state bar.  In 1872 he was a Presidential elector for Republican candidate Ulysses S. Grant. Wheeler worked briefly in private practice with another attorney before departing to take a position as county attorney for Pulaski County until 1873.  

Following his stint as county attorney, Wheeler returned to private legal practice before gaining a seat on the Pulaski County Board of Commissioners.  The collapse of Reconstruction in 1877 and the growth of white terrorism in the form of the Ku Klux Klan spelled an end for Wheeler's political and legal career in Arkansas, and in 1879, Wheeler abandoned the state to return to the growing city of Chicago.  He was active in the Illinois state militia, rising to the rank of Major.  

In Chicago, Wheeler left the legal profession to work as a financial manager for wealthy investor John Jones shortly before the latter's death.  Wheeler would make a career of managing Jones' various commercial and real estate interests on behalf of the family, eventually marrying one of Jones' nieces, the former Ranie Petit.  Together the couple would have seven children.  Wheeler is associated with the affluent upper crust of Black society in Chicago. This enabled him to engage in philanthropic fundraising, and he was influential in helping establish Provident Hospital of Cook County, a medical enterprise that survived into the 21st century.  

A friend of Booker T. Washington since the 1880s, in 1901, Wheeler came to Washington's aid by establishing the Chicago chapter of the National Negro Business League.  By 1903, with faltering businesses, Wheeler was ready to accept Washington's offer to move back South again, this time to Tuskegee, Alabama, to manage the finances of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial School.  In addition to handling of business affairs for the Institute, Wheeler also served as the superintendent of the school building and its campus. While at Tuskegee, Wheeler's health began to decline, and he died there on August 28, 1909.  He was 61 years old at the time of his death.  

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