Robert B. Elliott

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Robert Brown Elliott
Robert B. Elliott.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 3rd district
In office
March 4, 1871 – November 1, 1874
Preceded bySolomon L. Hoge
Succeeded byLewis C. Carpenter
South Carolina Attorney General
In office
December 14, 1876 – May 29, 1877
GovernorContested between Daniel Henry Chamberlain and Wade Hampton III
Preceded bySamuel W. Melton
Succeeded byJames Conner
28th Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives
In office
November 24, 1874 – April 14, 1876
GovernorFranklin I. Moses, Jr.
Daniel Henry Chamberlain
Preceded bySamuel J. Lee
Succeeded byWilliam Henry Wallace
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from Aiken County
In office
November 24, 1874 – April 14, 1876
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from Barnwell County
In office
November 24, 1868 – March 1, 1870
Personal details
Born(1842-08-11)August 11, 1842
Liverpool, England
DiedAugust 9, 1884(1884-08-09) (aged 41)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Resting placeSt. Louis Cemetery No. 2
Political partyRepublican
Professionlawyer, civil servant
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Branch/service South Carolina National Guard
Years of service1869–1871
RankCommanding General

Robert Brown Elliott (August 11, 1842 – August 9, 1884) was an African-American member of the United States House of Representatives from South Carolina, serving from 1871 to 1874.

Early life and education[edit]

He was born in 1842 in Liverpool, England. He attended High Holborn Academy in London, England and then studied law, graduating from Eton College in 1859. From there he joined the British Royal Navy.  Elliott decided to settle in South Carolina in 1867.[1][2] He was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1868 and began practicing law in Columbia, the state capital.


Elliott arrived in South Carolina in 1867 at the age of 25, where he established a law practice. Elliott helped organize the local Republican Party and served in the state constitutional convention in 1868 as a delegate from the Edgefield district.[2] In the late 1860s he was hired by AME bishop and fellow future congressman Richard H. Cain to be an associate editor of the paper, the South Carolina Leader (renamed the Missionary Record in 1868), along with another future congressman, Alonzo J. Ransier[3]

In 1868 he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. The next year he was appointed assistant adjutant-general; he was the first African-American commanding general of the South Carolina National Guard. As part of his job, he helped form a state militia to fight the Ku Klux Klan.[2]

Elliott was elected as a Republican to the Forty-second, defeating Democrat John E. Bacon, and Forty-third United States Congress, defeating Democrat William H. McCann. In Congress in April 1871 he gave a notable speech on the "Bill to Enforce the Provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution", also known as the "Ku Klux Bill".[4] He again "delivered a celebrated speech" in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1875.[5] He resigned on November 1, 1874, to serve as sheriff fight political corruption in South Carolina. He served again in the South Carolina House of Representatives, where he was elected as Speaker of the House.[2]

United States Congressman Robert Brown Elliott of South Carolina in 1872

He ran successfully for South Carolina Attorney General in 1876. In the state elections that year, white Democrats regained dominance of the state legislature. The following year, 1877, when the last of the federal troops were withdrawn from South Carolina, he was forced out of office.[2] In 1878 he formed a law partnership with D. Augustus Straker and T. McCants Stewart.[6]

He continued to be involved in politics, working on then-Treasury Secretary John Sherman's campaign for President in 1880, and was a delegate to the 1880 Republican National Convention. In January 1881 he was part of a black delegation that met with President James Garfield to protest the lack of civil and political rights in the South. However, his law practice faltered. In 1879, he was appointed a customs inspector for the Treasury Department in Charleston, South Carolina. He contracted malaria while working in that capacity on a trip to Florida. In 1881, he was transferred to New Orleans, and in 1882 he was dismissed. In New Orleans he again attempted to practice law, but found few clients. Impoverished, he died in New Orleans on August 9, 1884.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cho, Nancy. "ROBERT BROWN ELLIOTT (1842–1884)".
  2. ^ a b c d e f Black Americans in Congress - Robert Brown Elliott: Representative, 1871–1874, Republican from South Carolina,-Robert-Brown-(E000128)/
  3. ^ CAIN, Richard Harvey. History, Art & Archives, United States House of Representatives. [1]
  4. ^ Simmons, William J., and Henry McNeal Turner. Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising. GM Rewell & Company, 1887. p466-473
  5. ^ "Biographical Sidebar: Robert B. Elliott". America's Reconstruction - People and Politics After the Civil War. University of Houston. Archived from the original on 2008-09-05. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  6. ^ Simmons 1887, p744-751

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Solomon L. Hoge
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Lewis C. Carpenter