Richard Howell Gleaves

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Richard Howell Gleaves
Richard gleaves.jpg
Lt. Governor Gleaves
55th Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
In office
December 7, 1872 – December 14, 1876
Governor Franklin J. Moses, Jr.; Daniel Henry Chamberlain
Preceded by Alonzo J. Ransier
Succeeded by William Dunlap Simpson

Richard Howell Gleaves (July 4, 1819–1907) was an Haitian-American lawyer, merchant and politician and the 55th Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, serving from December 7, 1872 to December 14, 1876. He served under Governors Franklin J. Moses, Jr. and Daniel Henry Chamberlain. An Haitian-American of mixed race ancestry, Gleaves was notable as one of the highest elected Black-Americans during the Reconstruction Era.[1][2]


Richard Howell Gleaves was born free in Philadelphia to a Haitian father, who had immigrated earlier in the century following the Haitian Revolution, and an English mother. He was educated in Philadelphia as well as in New Orleans, where a relatively large free black community existed.[3] He then worked as a steward on Mississippi River steamboats before moving to Ohio and Pennsylvania. While back in the north, Gleaves was an active in the Prince Hall Freemasons, which had primarily African-American membership. He worked to organize Prince Hall lodges across the northern states.

In 1866 following the American Civil War, Gleaves moved to Beaufort, South Carolina. There he went into business with Robert Smalls, a former slave who during the war had captained a ship that he took from the Confederates. Gleaves purchased property in the town. His land included the site of a black fraternal hall now known as the Sons of Beaufort Lodge, located at 607 West Street. Gleaves, like his business partner Robert Smalls, went into politics and helped establish the Union League and the South Carolina Republican Party. He presided over that party's convention in 1867. From 1870-1872, he held multiple elected positions, including trial justice, probate judge and commissioner of elections.[2]

In 1872 and 1874, Gleaves was elected as the 55th Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina. In 1874, he defeated Martin Delany, an African American Republican, for the office. In 1876, Gleaves was a delegate to the 1876 Republican National Convention which chose Ohio Governor Rutherford B. Hayes as its nominee. In the general election, there was massive fraud in South Carolina. However, the Republican Party officeholders, including Gleaves, were voted out of office. The end of the Reconstruction Era and the removal of federal troops from South Carolina following the 1876 election signified the restoration of essentiall one-party rule in the south and Gleaves was the last Republican Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina until Bob Peeler was elected in the 1994 election.[2]

Democratic Governor Wade Hampton appointed Gleaves to the position of trial justice in Beaufort but he declined and moved out of state. He had been indicted for fraudulent issuance of legislative pay certificates. However, in 1880, he returned to South Carolina when President James A. Garfield appointed him to the lucrative position of special customs inspector. This position lasted until 1882. He spent the end of his life working as a waiter at the Jefferson Club in Washington, D.C.[2]

Gleaves was a prominent Freemason, the sixth National Grand Master of the Prince Hall National Grand Lodge of North America.


  1. ^ Bryant, Lawrence Chesterfield (1974). South Carolina Negro Legislators: a Glorious Success: State and Local Officeholders; Biographies of Negro Representatives, 1868-1902. South Carolina State College. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d Foner, Eric (1996). Freedom's Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction. Louisiana State University Press. p. 87. ISBN 9780807120828. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  3. ^ Bailey, N. Louise; Morgan, Mary L.; Taylor, Carolyn R. (1986-06). Biographical directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776-1985. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 9780872494794. Retrieved 3 March 2017.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
Political offices
Preceded by
Alonzo J. Ransier
Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
William Dunlap Simpson