Home > Uncategorized > February 2 – Samuel R. Lowery

February 2 – Samuel R. Lowery

On this day, Feb 2, 1866, the United States Supreme Court allowed a black lawyer to argue a case before them for the very first time.  Who was this man?…

Samuel R. Lowery was born in Nashville, Tennessee to Peter and Ruth Lowery in December of 1832.  His mother died when he was only seven years old,  leaving Samuel to be raised by his father.

Samuel’s father, Peter, had been born a slave, but purchased his own freedom.  As a Freedman, he ran a business, worked as a farmer, operated a livery stable, and served as a janitor at Franklin College.  The Reverend Talbot Fanning, white proprietor of Franklin College, would become tutor to both Peter and Samuel.

In 1848, Samuel himself became a Christian Church minister. However, after a local race riot in December 1856 endangered the lives of many free black families, Samuel moved his family North.  He continued working as a pastor in Cincinnati, Ohio and organizing Christian Churches in Canada until the mid 1860’s, when Union forces occupied Nashville and Samuel returned from exile.

Between 1865 and 1875, Lowery was involved with the State Colored Men’s Conventions, the National Emigration Society, and the Tennessee State Equal Rights League. He studied law under a white attorney in Rutherford County and began a law practice.  On February 2, 1880, Lowery was admitted to the bar of the U. S. Supreme Court, a first for Blacks in America.

In the 1880s, he established a cooperative community, Loweryvale, in Jefferson County, Alabama, where he died around 1900.

As an interesting addition to this edition…

143 years later, on Feb 2, 2009, Eric H. Holder, Jr. was sworn in as the first Black Attorney General!

thanks for reading,


Categories: Uncategorized
  1. eric m. johnson
    April 19, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    samuel is my cousin and i think the date he actually appeared was 1886.

    • Lydia Simpson
      March 1, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      I don’t know if anyone is still checking this post, but I have done extensive research on Samuel Lowery and the Tennessee Manual Labor University and would love to share what I have learned and see what I can learn from you. I am surprised that I have not come across this post before! The third chapter of my master’s thesis is about TMLU and the Lowery men, but my resources were limited. Though my thesis is complete, I hope to continue researching the men and the school in the future.

      • Frank D. Taff, J.D.
        February 3, 2014 at 4:19 pm

        I would like to know the name or citation to the case argued by Mr. Lowery. Do you have that information? Thanks. FDT

  2. eric m. johnson
    July 5, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Samuel R. Lowery is my cousin. Writing a book presently, but slow. Call me 615-578-7175

    • Lydia Simpson
      July 5, 2012 at 11:14 am

      I will! In the meantime, have you had a chance to check out the Rutherford County Archives yet? John Lodl, the county archivist is incredibly helpful and also familiar with the resources on the Tennessee Manual Labor University. He was a big help while I was doing my research. There is documentation within the records of the Chancery Court of when the school’s property was auctioned off. I also spent some time at the Disciples of Christ archives in Nashville and found a lot there. I will make contact by phone ASAP to share what I know. Thanks for responding!

  3. Lydia Simpson
    July 6, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Middle Tennessee State University. I’m working on my PhD now. The program I’m in has been doing a lot of work on the Cemetery community, where TMLU was located, for the past few years.

  4. Delphine Ridgeway
    March 27, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    looking to contact Lydia Simpson please regarding Samuel and Peter Lowery.

    • Lydia Simpson
      February 6, 2014 at 10:44 am

      The best way to reach me is by email. Lydia.bodine@gmail.com. I haven’t worked on this research in a while, but I’m happy to help in any way I can.

    • Lydia Simpson
      February 6, 2014 at 10:46 am

      I’m afraid I never found the citation for the case. It didn’t really fall within the scope of my research at the time, which was more focused on the community in which the Lowerys operated the Tennessee Manual Labor University.

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