Famous Beaufortonians: Thomas E. Miller

We mention the "Local History and Nature" pages regularly to highlight this aspect of our "Virtual BDC" services. In honor of Black History Month, we draw your attention to some African American native sons who found prominence on the state and national scene:

Thomas Ezekiel Miller (1849-1938):

Born in Ferrebeeville, S. C. of free black parents, Miller attended schools for free African-Americans in Charleston (although these schools were prohibited by law). He studied for the bar in Columbia, S. C. after his graduation from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania (1872). It was in the course of his law studies that Miller’s involvement in the Beaufort County Republican Party began.

His first public office was that of Beaufort school commissioner (1872), and in 1874 he was elected as representative to the state General Assembly. Miller served in the U. S. House (having successfully contested the election of William Elliott) from 1890-1891, and his term was plagued by contests from the opposing Democrats. When he returned to Beaufort, he served again in the South Carolina House of Representatives (1894-1896).

Miller joined with Robert Smalls in the state constitutional convention of 1895, failing to block legislation that would disfranchise black citizens. At this same convention, Miller expressed his support for women’s suffrage. More successful was Miller’s efforts to found a state-supported college for African-Americans, the Colored Normal, Industrial, Agricultural and Mechanical College in Orangeburg, now known as South Carolina State College. Miller became the college’s first president in 1896 and served until 1911-- forced into resignation by Governor Coleman Blease.

He died in Charleston, where his epitaph reads, "Not having loved the white man less, but having felt the Negro needed more."

Additional information about Miller:

Another image of Miller

"Miller, Thomas E. (1849-1938)," Online Encylopedia of Significant People and Places in African American History http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/miller-thomas-e-1849-1938

"Thomas E. Miller, 19th Century Politician” in the African American Registry http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/thomas-e-miller-19th-cent....

“Miller, Thomas Ezekial,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=m000757

Almost of the content within the Famous Beaufortonians webpage was written by Dennis Adams, Information Services Coordinator (Retired).

About the Author

Grace Cordial has been responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Beaufort District Collection at the Beaufort County Library since 1999.  The Beaufort District Collection exists to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history, culture, and environment of our part of the South Carolina lowcountry.  Besides the research room, Cordial manages the “Virtual BDC:” the BDC web pages, the Online Obituary Index, two digital collections, a new BDC.BCL Facebook page, and the Connections blog.  
Among her duties is to coordinate or present programs about local history, Gullah culture, and our coastal environment, including occasional instructional sessions about how to perform historical and/or genealogical research.