George Washington Gayles (Bolivar County)


George Washington Gayles

State House: 1872-1875, 1892-1894
State Senate: 1878-1886

Born: June 29, 1844 in Wilkinson County, MS
Died: March 5, 1924 in Bolivar County, MS

Born into slavery. Baptist minister and newspaper editor. Served as a Justice of the Peace and on the Board of Supervisors. President of the Missionary Baptist States Convention for many years, beginning in 1875. The only black state senator in Mississippi during his years in office. After he left the senate in 1886, and he and G. W. Butler completed their terms in the house in 1894, there would not be another African American in the state legislature until the late 1960s.

Gayles’ son, Benjamin Perry Enoch Gayles, attended Natchez Seminary and earned his degree at Roger Williams University in Nashville, Tennessee. Ordained in 1890, he married Lamonia Cesorea Simmons (1863-1918), daughter of Caesar Simmons and Arabella Outlaw, in 1891. He served as a school principal in Natchez and Columbus before becoming the pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Macon. Eventually, he and his family moved to Illinois, where he died sometime after 1940.

“He is the son of Mr. Perry and Rebecca Gayles. His father was formerly of Maryland, and his mother of South Carolina. In 1859 he succeeded in learning his letters, which were taught to him by Miss Elizabeth Powell of New York. In 1863 he went into the army and remained until the winter of 1864… The first church he organized was the Kindling Altar Baptist church at East Fork on the 11th of April, 1868, of which he is pastor until this day. In July, 1872, he was appointed missionary for the counties of Bolivar, Coahoma, and Sunflower in Mississippi. He served until July, 1876. He held the office of corresponding secretary of the Baptist State Convention for three years and was a member of the executive board for eighteen years. In the month of July, 1876, he was elected president of the Baptist Missionary State Convention by acclamation, which position he held by re-election eighteen years… July, 1881, he was elected editor of the Baptist Signal, which position he held four years.”
(Patrick H. Thompson, The History of Negro Baptists in Mississippi, 1898)

Wikipedia: George W. Gayles


Signature of George Washington Gayles from an 1874 petition to Governor Ames