John Roy Lynch – Major, United States Army Member of Congress

John Roy Lynch (September 10, 1847 – November 2, 1939) was the first African American Speaker of the House in Mississippi. He was also one of the first African American members of the U.S House of Representatives during Reconstruction, the period in United States history after the Civil War.

Lynch was born a slave near Vidalia, Concordia Parish, Louisiana and was held in slavery under the breakaway Confederate government in the southern part of the United States. According to historian Eric Foner, Lynch was freed by the United States Union Army in 1864 near the end of the Civil War.

According to Foner, Lynch “published a book, The Facts of Reconstruction, and several articles criticizing the then dominant Dunning School historiography” which presented the views of former slave owners and routinely showed the role of African Americans during Reconstruction in a false light. The Facts of Reconstruction is freely available online [1], courtesy of the Gutenberg Project. His book is a Primary Source in the study of Reconstruction.

Lynch died in Chicago at the age of 92 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Born near Vadalia, Louisiana, September 10, 1847.

He served as Fourth Auditor of the U.S. Treasury for the Navy Department under President Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1893; studied law and was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 1896; he returned to Washington, D.C. in 1897, where he practiced his profession until 1898, when he was appointed a Major and Additional Paymaster of U.S. Volunteers during the Spanish-American War by President William McKinley.

He was then appointed by McKinley as Paymaster in the Regular Army with the rank of Captain in 1901; promoted to Major in 1906, he retired from the Army in 1911 and moved to Chicago in 1912 and continued his profession in that city until his death on November 2, 1939.

He was buried in Section 4 of Arlington National Cemetery.

Courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives:

Representative from Mississippi; born near Vidalia, Concordia Parish, La., September 10, 1847; after his father’s death moved with his mother to Natchez, Miss., in 1863, where they were held as slaves; after emancipation engaged in photography and attended evening school; appointed by Governor Ames as a justice of the peace in 1869; member of the State house of representatives 1869-1873 and served the last term as speaker; delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1872, 1884, 1888, 1892, and 1900; elected as a Republican to the Forty-third and Forty-fourth Congresses (March 4, 1873-March 3, 1877); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1876 to the Forty-fifth Congress; successfully contested the election of James R. Chalmers to the Forty-seventh Congress and served from April 29, 1882, to March 3, 1883; unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1882 to the Forty-eighth Congress; returned to his plantation in Adams County, Miss., and engaged in agricultural pursuits; chairman of the Republican State executive committee 1881-1889; member of the Republican National Committee for the State of Mississippi 1884-1889; temporary chairman of the Republican National Convention at Chicago in 1884; Fourth Auditor of the Treasury for the Navy Department under President Harrison 1889-1893; studied law; was admitted to the Mississippi bar in 1896; returned to Washington, D.C., in 1897, where he practiced his profession until 1898, when he was appointed a major and additional paymaster of Volunteers during the Spanish-American War by President William McKinley; was appointed by President McKinley as a paymaster in the Regular Army with the rank of captain in 1901; was promoted to major in 1906; retired from the Regular Army in 1911; moved to Chicago, Ill., in 1912 and continued the practice of his profession until his death in that city on November 2, 1939; interment in Arlington National Cemetery.

Major John Roy Lynch Served in Spanish-American War as Volunteer Paymaster
A Protégé of McKinley
First A Magistrate, Then A State Legislator and Was In Washington 3 Terms

CHICAGO, November 2, 1939 – Major John Roy Lynch, a Negro slave before the Civil War who later served three terms in Congress as a Representative from Mississippi in the Eighteen Seventies, died in his home today at the age of 92 years.

In the Spanish-American War he was made a Major and Paymaster of Volunteers by President McKinley.  He served in the army until 1911 when he came to Chicago to practice law.  Major Lynch was once Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives and a delegate to five Republican conventions, serving as temporary chairman at the one in 1884.

Surviving are his widow, a daughter, Alice Lynch, a niece and a nephew.

Major Lynch was born a slave in Concordia Parish, Louisiana, and while still a child was sold with his mother to a resident of Natchez, Mississippi, where he lived for the next several decades.

The Civil War gave him liberty, and freedom brought him a desire to win position.  He worked days and attended school at night, acquiring an education which later caused him to be considered one of the most fluent and forceful speakers in the politics of the Seventies and Eighties.  While still a young man he started in business for himself in Natchez as a photographer.

In 1869 he was appointed a justice of the peace by Governor Ames and in the Autumn of the same year he was elected to the State Legislature.  He was re-elected two years later, serving as Speaker during his last term.  In 1872 he was elected from what was then the Sixth District of Mississippi to Congress and served in the Forty-third, Forty-fourth and Forty-seventh Congresses.

His temporary chairmanship of the Republican National Convention was in 1884 and he was considered for the permanent chairmanship.  In 1889 he was appointed Fourth Auditor of the Treasury.


  • DATE OF DEATH: 11/02/1939
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 11/06/1939

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