Josiah T. Walls

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Josiah T. Walls
Walls josiah.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's At-Large district
In office
March 4, 1871 – January 29, 1873
March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1875
Preceded by Charles M. Hamilton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1875 – April 19, 1876
Succeeded by Jesse J. Finley
Personal details
Born Josiah Thomas Walls
December 30, 1842
Winchester, Virginia
Died May 15, 1905(1905-05-15) (aged 62)
Tallahassee, Florida
Political party Republican

Josiah Thomas Walls (December 30, 1842 – May 15, 1905) was a United States Congressman who served three separate terms in Congress between 1871 and 1876. He was one of the first African Americans in the United States Congress elected during the Reconstruction Era and the first black Congressman to represent the state of Florida.

Early life[edit]

Josiah Walls was born a slave near Winchester, Virginia. He was forced to join the Confederate Army and was captured by the Union Army in 1862 at Yorktown. He voluntarily joined the United States Colored Troops in 1863 and rose to the rank of corporal. He was discharged in Florida and settled in Alachua County.

Political career[edit]

He was a member of the Florida Senate from the 13th district in the sessions of 1869, 1870, 1877 and 1879.[1]

Walls was elected as a Republican and as the sole representative from Florida to the Forty-second United States Congress in 1871, but the vote was contested by Silas L. Niblack. The U.S. Committee on Elections eventually unseated Walls. Walls ran and was elected again in 1873. In office, Walls introduced bills to establish a national education fund and aid pensioners and Seminole War Veterans.

After serving one term in the house, Walls ran for re-election in 1874. He apparently won the election but Jesse Finley contested this and was eventually declared the winner by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. This unseating would mark the end of his political career and it would not be until 2011, with the election of Congressman Allen West, that another black Republican from Florida would serve in the United States House of Representatives.

He ran a successful plantation in Alachua County until the disastrous freeze of 1894-95, which destroyed his farm. He took a teaching position, as Farm Director of Florida A&M University, in Tallahassee, where he died on May 15, 1905.


  1. ^ People of Lawmaking in Florida
  • Klingman, Peter D. Josiah Walls: Florida's Black Congressman of Reconstruction. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1976. ISBN 0-8130-0399-7