Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African-American ever seated in the US Senate, once lived and worked in Lincoln County. In North Carolina, Lincoln is the only county that has never elected a person of color to any office--city or county.
Wayne Howard Staff Writer
I've heard some say it was a mistake on her part, but at the Candidates Forum sponsored by the Lincoln Herald and the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, School Board candidate Clifidean Bethea extended her remarks beyond the question and answer period to note that Lincoln County is the only North Carolina county which has never elected a person of color to any office--city or county. I'm glad she did.
This is not an endorsement for her candidacy in the three-candidate race for one of the at-large seats on the Board of Education. It is a 'thank you' to her for bringing into the open what has been talked about for a long, long time.
It's ironic that the first African-American ever elected to the US Senate once lived in Lincoln County. His name was Hiram Revels and he was elected from the state of Mississippi during the Reconstruction period just after the Civil War. Revels was the child of a mixed marriage; his father was black, his mother was of Scottish heritage. They were not slaves and Revels was never a slave. He came to Lincolnton in the late 1830s to work in a blacksmith shop before moving north to complete college in Ohio. On February 25, 1870, Revels, on a party-line vote of 48 - 8, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats voting against, became the first African-American to be seated in the US Senate.
Part of the reason that no person of color has ever been elected in Lincoln County is that very few have ever run for office. Lincoln County's population is only 8.5% African-American; the city of Lincolnton is 13.5%.
This year, for the first time I can ever remember, there are multiple black candidates running. Mary Frances White, who made an unsuccessful run for City Council earlier this decade, is running for the Ward I seat. Franklin Lowery is running for Clerk of Court. Clarissa Metts Hill and Bethea are both running for an at-large seat on the School Board.
Perhaps this time, Lincoln County's distinction--or should I call it shame?--will be erased from our history.
In one respect, the absence of any person of color from any elected office is a case of 'taxation without representation,' something over which we fought a revolution.
Obviously, one should vote for the person one believes is most qualified to hold the position--whatever it may be; but we do hope that the color of a person's skin will not preclude voting for that person. It has on many occasions in the past.
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