Friday, February 28, 1997
Black
Black leaders became foreign ambassadors

Tristate history is filled with African-American achievement, but much of it is not known by the public. Today, in recognition of Black History Month, The Enquirer offers the last of a four-part, weekly series that highlights the lives and contributions of some significant local African-Americans. Today we profile Ambassadors George Washington Williams and Jesse Locker.

BY MARK CURNUTTE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Locker
Jesse Locker,
Ambassador to Liberia
What do Presidents Chester A. Arthur and Dwight Eisenhower have in common?

They both appointed black Cincinnatians foreign ambassadors.

In 1885, President Arthur made Rev. George Washington Williams, former pastor of Union Baptist Church, minister to Haiti.

In 1953, a six-term Cincinnati Councilman, Jesse Locker, was chosen by President Eisenhower to be ambassador to the African nation of Liberia. The republic had been established by blacks from the United States.

Both Mr. Locker and Rev. Williams had illustrious careers before they were selected for foreign service.

Mr. Locker, a Republican first elected to council in 1941, practiced law in Cincinnati from 1919 through the time he departed for Liberia. He was known for his disarmingly funny personality.

Born in College Hill in 1891 and a member of the last graduating class from the former College Hill High School, he received his law degree from Howard University, Washington, D.C., in 1915. He was president of the segregated Hamilton County Bar Association for Negro Lawyers.

His wife, the former Anna French whom he married in 1915, accompanied him to the Liberian capital of Monrovia in 1953.

It was there, in April 1955, that he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died.

His body was flown by military transport back to Cincinnati, where a public showing was held in council chambers. At the time of his death, Mr. Locker owned a home on Cleveland Avenue in Avondale and a country home near Blanchester.

Williams
George W. Williams,
Minister to Haiti
Rev. Williams had already distinguished himself by the time he moved to Cincinnati to pastor Union Baptist in 1876.

Born in Bedford Springs, Pa., in 1849, he joined the Union Army to fight in the Civil War when he was 14.

Upon his 1865 discharge, he decided to pursue the ministry in Massachusetts and later was pastor of Boston's Twelfth Baptist Church. He moved to Washington, D.C., in 1875 to start The Commoner newspaper, which folded a year later.

He resigned as Union Baptist's pastor within a year of his arrival to study law at the University of Cincinnati. In 1879, endorsed by the Republican Party, he became the first black elected to Ohio's House of Representatives.

He served two years in the house and returned to Cincinnati in 1881 to study law with Alphonsa Taft and was admitted to the Ohio Bar Association.

It was also in 1881 that Rev. Williams wrote the critically acclaimed book History of the Negro Race in America. It was the first work of its kind by an African-American and was an instant success. Five years later, he wrote a second book on the role of black soldiers.

He was an outspoken critic on the treatment of blacks throughout the world and took King Leopold to task over living conditions of blacks in the Congo.

In demand as a lecturer on both sides of the Atlantic, Rev. Williams became ill while visiting England. He died in 1891.

Previous stories

HENRY BOYD BUILT FURNITURE TO LAST Feb. 21, 1997
GRANVILLE T. WOODS: INVENTOR RIVALED EDISON Feb. 14, 1997
JENNIE DAVIS PORTER: BEACON FOR BETTER EDUCATION Feb. 7, 1997