George B. Jackson

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George B. Jackson​

(Former slave and businessman, known as "the wealthiest
colored man in Texas")


Born 1850
Brunswick County, Virginia
Died November 25, 1900 (aged 50)​
Between San Angelo and San Antonio, Texas

Resting place:
Black Masonic Cemetery in San Antonio

Political Party Republican​​
Spouse Mary Jackson​

No children​

Religion American Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church)

George B. Jackson (1850 – November 25, 1900), was a former slave who became a "buffalo soldier" in the United States Army from 1869 to 1875 in Texas. He became a businessman, landowner, sheep rancher, and politician in San Angelo, Texas. One of the founders in the 1890s of the Republican Party in San Angelo, he was widely believed to have been the wealthiest African American in the state during the second half of the 19th century.[1]

Background

Jackson was born into slavery on a plantation in Brunswick County in southwestern Virginia. He was of mixed race and may have been sired by his white master. He was emancipated at the age of fifteen under the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[2]​ ​​

Business activities

​ As a young man, Jackson enlisted in the United States Army and was assigned to an all-black unit. He was assigned with the Buffalo Soldiers to Fort Concho in San Angelo in Tom Green County in west Texas. At the time, San Angelo was known as a "resort for desperate character," at which sixteen saloons sold an average of 19.4 gallons of whisky per male resident annually.[2]

By 1875, Jackson was discharged from the Army at Fort Duncan on the Mexican border in Eagle Pass, Texas. He began operating a saloon and brothel in San Angelo. In an event typical of the rough frontier town, Josephine Thompson in 1879 stabbed buffalo soldier Albert Ford to death in Jackson's saloon. Twice annually, Jackson paid $25 to police to protect his operation of the brothel. The police typically charged prostitutes $2.50 twice per year for "vagrancy." Otherwise, the business flourished without police interference.[2]

Suzanne Campbell, the former director of special collections at Angelo State University in San Angelo, retired after more than two decades of service in 2018. She is writing a book on Jackson.[3]

Political career

By 1884, Jackson was selected as a petit juror in San Angelo, at a time when blacks in most of the former Confederacy were being disfranchised and thus disqualified from jury service. In 1885, the white-controlled school system appointed Jackson as a trustee of the black public school; the system was segregated. He purchased ranch land at a bargain some thirty-five miles west of San Angelo and leased out his holdings.[2]

Active politically, Jackson in 1894 was chosen to address the Republican State Convention in the capital city of Austin. He assailed the lowering of the tariffknown as Wilson-Gorman in the Cleveland administration. Jackson called for higher tariffs to protect West Texas sheep and goat ranchers.[2]

He started a Republican organization in San Angelo, together with six whites and one Hispanic man.[2] In 1894, the Republican candidate, George H. Noonan of San Antonio, was elected as U.S. Representative from the district that included Tom Green County. A native of Newark, New Jersey, Noonan was the first Texas Republican elected to Congress after the end of Reconstruction. He served one term and was unseated in the general election of 1896, when Democrats cemented their political power in the state.[4] The San Angelo Standard newspaper declared the politically connected Jackson to be "the wealthiest colored man in Texas."[2]

In 1894, Jackson was chosen to address the Republican state convention in Austin, and in 1897, he was appointed by President William McKinley as customs inspector in Presidio in southwestern Texas.​​ In 1897, Jackson traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend McKinley's first inauguration. The new administration appointed Jackson as customs inspector in Presidio, a small community on the Mexican border west of what is now Big Bend National Park. Respected for setting aside racial differences in his dealings, Jackson developed friendships with whites and Democrats.[2]

Personal life

​ Jackson married a black woman from San Antonio named "Mary," who continued to live there while he was running his business in San Angelo, 210 miles west of San Antonio. Jackson prospered in San Angelo and regularly spent time with Mary. They had no children together.​[2]

Jackson died at the age of fifty of congenital heart disease. At the time of his death, Jackson was en route from San Angelo to San Antonio to visit Mary.​[2] ​ George B. Jackson was a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first independent black denomination in the United States, founded in 1816 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was interred at the black Masonic Cemetery in San Antonio. His business partner, Joe Selby, later died in San Angelo.[2]

References

  1. San Angelo Genealogical and Historical Society Meeting Gets Rescheduled. gosanangelo.com (February 12, 2011). Retrieved on June 2, 2011; no longer on-line.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 "George B. Jackson, Black (or African-American) Businessman, Rancher, and Entrepreneur," Lecture by Suzanne O. Campbell, at the annual meeting of the West Texas Historical Association in Lubbock, April 2, 2011.
  3. "Happy Trails to you": Celebrating Suzanne Campbell's 22 Years of Service. Angelo.edu (June 12, 2018). Retrieved on October 18, 2019.
  4. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. bioguide.congress.gov. Retrieved on October 18, 2019.

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