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More on Pinchback





First Person of Color in the United States to be elected governor in 1875.

Pickney Benton Stewart Pinchback


Pinchback was never able to reach the governor's mansion by election, but he retired to Washington, D.C., where, along with Blanche Bruce, he became a celebrity in Washington social circles. Governer P.B.S Pinchback, was a former cabin boy, shrewd, capable, vain, a gambling type, a man who would put everything on an ace and, losing, walk away with a smile. Elliott was a dark-skinned free
person of color with a somewhat mysterious background.

Compliments: Library of Congress

* Pinchback was fair-skinned, the son of a Mississippi planter and a colored woman who bore him ten children.

Pinchback was of like mind: he was what he was. A congressional investigating committee asked him if the governor acknowledged his strength. Pinchback was frank. "Oh, yes; he always acknowledged he couldn't get along without me. I have to tell you the truth." Bold, elegantly turned out, daring, Pinchback made his mark in reconstructed Louisiana. By turns a senator, lieutenant governor and governor, he held more major offices than any other
person of color in American history.

In the fall of 1872 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In January, 1873, he was elected to the Senate. He went to Washington, therefore, with the extraordinary distinction of being both a congressman-elect. (There were also disquieting rumors that Pinchback intended to make himself vice-president elect.) Pinchback did not go as a beggar. "Sir," he told the Senate, "I demand simple justice. I am not here as a beggar. I do not care as far as I am personally concerned whether you give me my seat or not. I will go back to my people and come here but I tell you to preserve your own consistency. Do not make fish of me while you make flesh of everybody else."


Compliments: Library of Congress

For three years the Senate grappled with Pinchback's case. Almost the whole of an extra session of Congress was devoted to the senator-elect from Louisiana. Finally, after hours of debate, he was rejected. The real reason, some authorities insist, was that the senators' wives told them that they did not intend to associate with Mrs. Pinchback.

During the controversy "Pinch," as he was called, became a national figure. Washington women, charmed by his "Brazilian" good looks, went out of their way to meet him and Pichback stories made the rounds. The Washington correspondent of the New York Commercial Advertiser was impressed by the senator-elect.


"Aside from the political view of the question (two factions in Louisiana were competing for national recognition),'' he wrote, "Pinchback's presence in the United States Senate is not open to the smallest objection, except the old Bourbon war-whoops of color. He is about thirty-seven years of age, not darker than an Arab. . . . His features are regular, just perceptibly African, his eyes intensely black and brilliant, with a keen, restless glance.

Click Photo to enlarge to read text

His most repelletn point is a sardonic smile which, hovering continuously over his lips, gives him an evil look, undeniably handsome as the man is. It seems as though the scorn which must rage within him, at sight of the dirty ignorant men from the South who affect to look down upon him on account of his color, finds play imperceptibly about his lips. . .
Mr. Pinchback is the best dressed Southern man we have had in Congress from the South since the days when gentlemen were Democrats."

More on Pinchback


Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback,

the 25th Governor of Louisiana and the first governor in the nation of African descent, died in 1921.



 He is buried in the family tomb in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. 

This bronze sculpture stands in the State Capitol building remarkably adjacent to the statue of Henry Watkins Allen.  The plaque on the sculpture pedestal has this engraving:

The Honorable P. B. S. Pinchback
Governor State of Louisiana

Presented by
The Baton Rouge Chapter of the Louisiana League of Good Government
July 30, 1976


Pinchback was a state senator when, in 1871 Lt. Governor Oscar Dunn, a physician and also of African descent, died of pneumonia.

The senate elected Pinchback to the position of Lt. Governor.

Governor Henry Clay Warmoth was  impeached at the end of his term in 1872.


Pinchback became acting Governor after Governor Warmoth was required  to step down until convicted of impeachment or until  cleared of the charges.

As a result Governor Pinchback was in office for 35 days.

He was integral to the founding of Southern University.  He became an attorney, practicing law in New York until his death in 1921.  He was buried in this family tomb in Metairie Cemetery.  Metairie Cemetery was previously reserved for whites only.


Eliza Stewart
Mother of P. B. S. Pinchback
1814 - 1884

Nina Pinchback Combs
Sept. 1886 - June 1909

P. B. S. Pinchback
1837 - 1921

Nina E. Pinchback
1844 - 1928

Favorite Biographies

La. Secretary of State

Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising

National Governors Association


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