The Colored American clipping

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Settle, Josiah Thomas, 1850-1915; African American lawyers

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A Successful Barrister

Hon. Josiah T. Settle a Leading Attorney of Memphis, Tenn., Admitted to Practice Before the Supreme Court of the U.S. - His Early Struggle for an Education. - A Successful Career.

Hon. Josiah T. Settle, of Memphis, Tenn., is visiting Washington this week on professional business, and on Monday, the 20th instant, he was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Settle is one of the strong men of the race and is an admirable example of its possibilities. He is a scholar, an orator, a philosopher and a leader. He was born on the Cumberland mountains in Tennessee and obtained his preliminary education in the common schools of Ohio. At the age of 15 years he entered Oberlin College and completed his freshman year there.

At the solicitation of Gen. O. O. Howard and Prof. A. L. Barber he then came to Howard University and took the full collegiate and subsequently the law course at that institution. While a student at Howard, his talents and high character attracted the attention of the late Governor Alexander R. Shepherd, and through the influence of that gentleman was appointed first reading clerk of the then existing District legislature and subsequently as a clerk of the District Board of Public Works, in the latter position under the personal direction of Governor Shepherd, who held him in great esteem and promoted his fortunes in every possible manner. Mr. Settle's life in Washington was most congenial to a man of his social temperament and accomplishments, and for a time he remained content with his conditions, varying them by occasional participation in the political campaigns of neighboring states, always to the increase of his reputation, gained even then as a forceful logician and a most graceful orator. But there soon came an awakening. The sad story of the race's needs in the South, the importunate demand for men of strong character, of moral equipment, and of professional acquirement to go down among them, to be a light unto their feet and to show them by power of example what they might accomplish, awoke in him a responsive chord, and forsaking the society of his intellectual comrades and his social friends in the North, he bravely took up his share of the work among the submerged of our people and cast his fortunes with the race in the state of Mississippi, in which state he began the practice of law in 1875. His thorough knowledge of his profession, his modesty, and the clean and pure life he led among these people attracted almost immediate attention from both the white and the colored people, and it is safe to say that no colored man, especially from the North, ever enjoyed a larger degree of the respect and confidence of his white fellow citizens than did Mr. Settle during his residence in Mississippi.

In a few months after beginning practice he was nominated as District Attorney and would unquestionably have been elected had not the policy of the Federal government just at that time destroyed the edifice of republican control in the state and produced the well-known revolution of 1876.

Mr. Settle, however, easily retained the confidence of the people and in that same year he was elected both as a delegate to the National Republican Convention and as a Presidential elector for the state at large. He was again Presidential elector on the Garfield ticket in 1880, and in 1884 he was elected to the legislature of Mississippi on an independent ticket. This was a signal tribute to his personal worth, as no such cause as party loyalty or party regularity could be pleaded for his victory.

At the close of his legislative term Mr. Settle found a larger field for professional success in Memphis, Tenn., and he accordingly moved to that city in 1885 and promptly took up again the practice of law.

For two years he served as Assistant Attorney General, charged with all state prosecutions in the courts of Shelby county, Tenn., and he added materially to the brilliancy of his legal reputation and to the appreciation of his sterling character by the impartiality and vigor of his work in this office.

Beginning with 1892, Mr. Settle has been a delegate to every National convention of the party and he is now rounding out his twelfth year of service as a member of the State Executive Committee of Tennessee.

During his entire career Mr. Settle has never sought political office. In every instance he has been urged to serve by the influential men of the community, and when he has consented it has always been with reluctance, so wedded has he been to the profession which he has made his life work, and only when he believed some race interest could be conserved by acceptance.

Mr. Settle has high ideals. He knows the law is a jealous mistress, and the eminence he has attained and the large and lucrative practice which he enjoys have been made possible only by the severest application, a constant study of legislative enactments and judicial decisions, and higher and best of all by the subordination of all to the highest principles of personal integrity and to the practice of unswerving morality.

These are the dominant notes in his career and the race may justly prepare a niche for him in that Pantheon wherein are cherished the names and fame of those who have achieved the best results amid the most untoward surroundings.

Then, too, Mr. Settle is an eloquent answer himself to Mrs. John A. Logan's query why colored men of education and refinement are content to go down to the South and suffer the humiliations and limitations of their environments there. With him it is the race first and personal aggrandizement afterward.

Mr. Settle is popular in Memphis with all classes of her citizens and the years to come are full of promise of greater achievement for the man and of continued helpfulness for his race.





The Colored American, “The Colored American clipping,” Mississippi State University Libraries, accessed December 10, 2023,

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