Col. George F. Bowles (Adams County)
State House: 1888-1891
Born: June 20, 1844 in Charleston, SC
Died: December 26, 1899 in Natchez, MS
Lawyer, editor, and philanthropist. According to her obituary, his wife was Laura E. Davis (c. 1847-1899) of Washington, MS. George and Laura are listed on the 1880 census in Vidalia, Louisiana.
Possibly one of the men shown in this portrait of the 1890 legislature, which is unlabeled.
“Colonel George F. Bowles, the well known colored attorney and one of the leaders of his race died yesterday morning at his residence on St. Catherine street. Deceased was in his fifty-sixth year and had been a resident of this city for the past 28 years. He was born in Charleston, SC., in 1844, his father being a native of California and a free man. Colonel Bowles was a quiet unobtrusive man, courteous in the extreme and always deferring to the wishes of others. He had the respect of everyone who knew him and in the years of his residence in this city he earnestly sought to hold and deserve that respect. He was for several terms a member of the State Legislature as a representative from Adams county and though he was a Republican his vote in the Legislature was cast in favor of all measures designed for the best interests of the people. He was admitted to the bar of this county and his every act has been such as to please the members of the bar. He was an earnest worker in behalf of his race and exhorted his people to follow the best rules of morality and to advance themselves in the works of a higher and nobler life. He was a self-sacrificing man at all times and gave readily and without ostentation to all charities. He was the founder of the order of Knights and Ladies of Honor, of the World and was at the head of that fraternal and benevolent organization. He was the founder of the Universal Brotherhood and a high officer in colored Knights of Pythias and Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Each order will pay the proper respect to his memory and will attend the funeral in a body. Deceased was a widower, his wife having died about three months ago. Her death was a severe blow to him and he never fully recovered from the shock. He leaves no near relatives to mourn his loss.”
(Obituary in the Natchez Democrat, December 27, 1899)
“Born a slave in Charleston, Bowles became free before the Civil War and was educated in schools in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky. He enlisted in the Union army in 1863, and after the war, he read law and was admitted to the bar in Tennessee. Bowles moved to Natchez in 1871, and in the following year he was elected city attorney and city weigher. He held several offices after Reconstruction, including militia colonel (appointed 1878), city marshal, chief of the Natchez police (elected 1879), and member of the state House of Representatives from Adams County, 1888-1891. A grand chancellor of the Negro Knights of Pythias in Mississippi, Bowles published a monthly, Brotherhood, 1887-1900.”
(Eric Foner, Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders during Reconstruction, 1993)
“Col. George F. Bowles of the Sixth Militia District, a local Republican activist and perennial officeholder, led a well-armed black militia that frequently drilled in the streets of Natchez in the mid-1870s.”
(Justin Behrend, Reconstructing Democracy: Grassroots Black Politics in the Deep South after the Civil War, 2015)
Memorial on Find A Grave
Historical Marker Database: Hospital Hill Neighborhood, Natchez Trails
Ritual of the Knights of Honor of the World, 1893