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Wed, 12.21.1842

Robert B. Elliott, a talented political force

Robert B. Elliott

On this date, we remember Robert Brown Elliott, a Black lawyer, politician, and military officer born in 1842.

Elliot was born and educated in Liverpool, England. After serving in the British navy, Elliott arrived in Boston in 1867.  Robert Elliott was a brilliant lawyer who was admitted to the South Carolina bar and elected to the South Carolina legislature in 1868 during Reconstruction. In March 1869, Elliott was appointed assistant adjutant-general, becoming the first Black commanding general of the South Carolina National Guard.

His duties included the formation and maintenance of the state militia--often called the Black militia- to protect white and Black citizens from the murderous, fast-growing Ku Klux Klan.  He served as United States congressman from 1871 to 1874.   In 1876, Elliott was elected state attorney general, but with the withdrawal of federal troops and the subsequent end of Reconstruction, he was forced out of office a year later and returned to private practice.

Robert Elliott’s partnerships eventually failed and he lapsed into poverty. Robert Brown Elliott died in New Orleans in August 1884.

Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989.
Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Treese
U.S. Government Printing Office
Raymond W. Smock, historian and director 1990

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