Merrimon Howard (Jefferson County)

State House: 1870-1872

Born: March 8, 1821

Also served as sheriff and justice of the peace. His son, Michael, was appointed to West Point in 1870 as one of the first Black cadets, but he did not pass the entrance exam. In January of 1877, Howard testified about the denial of election franchise in Mississippi.

Fearing for his safety, Howard relocated to Washington, D.C., and was appointed to be a messenger in the Treasury Department in 1877. He lost his position in 1886 after a Mississippi Democrat, Rep. Barksdale, requested his removal. Howard and wife Elvira are listed on the 1880 and 1900 census, as well as city directories, in Washington, D.C.

“[Merrimon] Howard was a former slave who was freed in the 1850s; he was a carriage driver and helped to found the first black school in the county; he also held many offices, including sheriff. But in 1876, shorn of office, Howard nonetheless directly confronted the white liners in a massive procession in Fayette, thereby provoking the ire of leading Democrats. They threatened to kill him, even though he had recently been appointed a special federal marshal. Consequently, Howard fled the county prior to the election. The U.S. marshal for the Southern District of Mississippi, in a report to the U.S. attorney general, described Howard’s plight this way: ‘Howard is a colored man, a staunch Republican, and a leader among his people. Herein is his offending.'”
(Justin Behrend, Reconstructing Democracy: Grassroots Black Politics in the Deep South after the Civil War, 2015)

“Of all the members of that legislature, there were only two I had ever known before, one who had been a slave, Merriman Howard from Jefferson county, who had been the house servant and carriage driver for my nearest neighbor, in the days when I lived in that county, Mr. Wade Harrison…”
(Frank A. Montgomery, Reminiscences of a Mississippian in Peace and War, 1901)

Links:
Letter from Merrimon Howard to the Assistant Commissioner of the Mississippi Freedmen’s Bureau

Washington Post: "The First Black at West Point"

Merrimon Howard