Commodore was born into slavery in 1819 or 1820, probably in Essex County, but the exact date of his birth and the names of his parents are not recorded, nor are the circumstances under which he became free. Census enumerators in 1870 and 1880 recorded his age as fifty-one in the former year and sixty in the latter, identified him in both years as a shoemaker, and listed him as unable to read or write. His surname appears in public documents variously as Comadore, Commadore, and Commodore; records of the General Assembly consistently used the first spelling while his son preferred the last. At some time before emancipation Commodore married Lettie, or Letty, Garnett, although Virginia law did not recognize marriages between enslaved people. They had at least two daughters and one son. By 1870 Commodore had married Katherine, or Catherine, Williams, who died in June 1887. They are not known to have had children.
On January 1, 1872, Commodore paid $300 for a lot and one or more buildings on East Queen Street in Tappahannock, where he lived and worked for the remainder of his life. When the seller's executrix confirmed the sale by a deed executed on June 3, 1875, Commodore made his mark. In April and August of that year he was a member of the county grand jury.
Commodore presided over the Essex County Republican convention in 1873 and powerfully defended the party against Democratic criticism. Two years later the county's Republicans nominated him for a seat in the House of Delegates, and in the November election he defeated Albert R. Micou, of Tappahannock, a Democrat and editor of the Tidewater Index, by a close vote of 689 to 660. Micou filed a challenge to the election, but the House of Delegates dismissed it. The official records document little about Commodore's service in the General Assembly sessions that met from December 1875 to March 1876 and from December 1876 to April 1877. He and another first-term African American Republican, Miles Connor, from Norfolk County, were appointed to the lowest-ranking seats on the relatively inconsequential Committee on Militia and Police. On important partisan issues, such as elections for Speaker and a United States senator, Commodore voted with the Republican minority.
A member of the First Baptist Church, in Tappahannock, Commodore died, probably in that town, on June 24, 1892. His place of burial is not recorded.
1819 or 1820 - Aaron Commodore is born into slavery, probably in Essex County.
1870 - By this year Aaron Commodore has married Katherine, or Catherine, Williams.
January 1, 1872 - Aaron Commodore pays $300 for a lot and one or more buildings on East Queen Street in Tappahannock.
1873 - Aaron Commodore presides over the Essex County Republican convention and powerfully defends the party against Democratic criticism.
June 3, 1875 - A deed of sale is executed to Aaron Commodore for the purchase of one or more buildings in East Queen Street in Tappahannock. He signs by making his mark.
November 1875 - Aaron Commodore, a Republican of Tappahannock, defeats the Democratic candidate, Albert R. Micou, also of Tappahannock, by twenty-nine votes to represent Essex County in the House of Delegates.
July 31, 1884 - In a piece published in the Richmond Daily Whig, Aaron Commodore denies charges that African Americans were armed with swords at the polling place in Tappahannock during the last election.
June 1887 - Katherine, or Catherine, Williams, wife of Aaron Commodore, dies.
June 24, 1892 - Aaron Commodore dies, probably in Tappahannock. His place of burial is not recorded.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
McGuire, L. H., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Aaron Commodore (1819 or 1820–1892). (2013, December 11). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Commodore_Aaron_1819_or_1820-1892.
- MLA Citation:
McGuire, Lillian H. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Aaron Commodore (1819 or 1820–1892)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 11 Dec. 2013. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: May 3, 2013 | Last modified: December 11, 2013
Contributed by Lillian H. McGuire and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography.