Robert Gleed (Lowndes County)
State Senate: 1870-1875
Born: 1836 in Virginia
Died: July 24, 1916 in Harris County, TX
Born into slavery in Virginia. A prominent merchant in Columbus, MS.
In 1872, there was an incident involving Gleed taking a seat on a segregated railroad car, and a crowd of white men forcibly removed him. The Vicksburg Herald wrote, “The negroes as a mass do not seek nor want equality. It is only vagabonds like Gleed who wish to menace the peace” (April 16, 1872).
Gleed was appointed lieutenant colonel in the Lowndes County militia in 1873.
Following a violent incident during his run for sheriff in 1875, Gleed feared for his life and moved his family to Texas. He returned to Mississippi for a brief time; in 1883, as a representative of the Central Earnest Workers Association, he began giving lectures around the state on economics, morality, and education.
Gleed died in Texas survived by several children, including Anna Louise (1862-1938, a teacher), Virgil Cain (1866-1945), Robert Jr. (1869-1932), and Bruce (1880-1968).
Gleed, his wife Susan, and some of their children are buried in historic Sandfield Cemetery in Columbus, MS. Gleed is one of the figures portrayed in the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science’s annual Eighth of May Emancipation Celebration, held at Sandfield Cemetery, where high school students tell the stories of notable African Americans who lived in Columbus.
“Robert Gleed, of Columbus, was a man of fair education, good character, and some financial ability, although he had been a slave until the close of the war. An excellent speaker, he was employed by the Democratic administration after the overthrow of the Republican regime to lecture to the Negroes of the state on educational and agricultural matters.”
(Vernon Lane Wharton, The Negro in Mississippi, 1865-1890, 1965)
“Gleed was a man of unusual intelligence. Before the War Columbus officers had arrested him as a runaway slave. He refused to tell where he came from or the name of his master. According to law, the officers sold him to the highest bidder. He kept his identity a profound secret as long as he lived. He was prominent in politics during reconstruction.”
(Thomas Battle Carroll, Historical Sketches of Oktibbeha County, 1931)