Miles Connor (d. 1893)

Miles Connor served one term in the House of Delegates (1876–1877). Born enslaved, Connor became a community leader in the Western Branch section of Norfolk County (later the city of Chesapeake). In just more than five years he rose from justice of the peace to county supervisor to member of the General Assembly. He also helped organize the Churchland Grove Baptist Church and served as one of the congregation's key figures. One of Connor's sons became the first president of what is now Coppin State University. Connor married twice and died of asthma in 1893. MORE...

 

Connor was born into slavery early in the 1830s, probably in Norfolk County. His parents were Richard Connor and Matilda Connor. Little is known about his early life, but he may have worked as a valet and house servant and been taught to read by his owners. The circumstances under which he secured his freedom are unknown. By November 1866 Connor was working as a laborer and was married to Lucy Fisher Connor. They had at least two sons and two daughters. Connor first reported personal property in 1870, when he owned four hogs valued at $10 and furniture worth $50. He farmed and early in the 1870s also harvested oysters. His wife had died by mid-September 1870, and on October 27 of that year Connor married Joanna Watts. They had at least seven daughters and three sons, including Miles Washington Connor, who became the first president of Coppin State Teachers College (later Coppin State University), in Baltimore, Maryland.

After the American Civil War (1861–1865), Connor emerged as a leader in the African American community in the Western Branch area of Norfolk County, where he helped to organize churches and fraternal organizations and held several local offices. On May 26, 1870, Connor was elected a justice of the peace for Western Branch and two years later was reelected to a three-year term. In February 1874 a county grand jury indicted the officers of Western Branch for malfeasance relating to financial disbursements. Connor and others answered these charges before the county court in April, at which time the court dismissed the indictment. On May 28 he was elected supervisor of Western Branch. By virtue of this office he took a seat on the Norfolk County board of supervisors in July and was appointed to the Committees on Auditing Accounts, Contingent Expenses and Claims, and Roads and Bridges. He won reelection to a two-year term in May 1875.

On October 14, 1875, Norfolk County Radicals chose Connor on the third ballot to be the Republican Party's candidate for a seat in the House of Delegates. The following November, African American voter strength in the county enabled Connor to defeat the white Conservative John Richard Lewellen, a former Confederate army officer and newspaper publisher, by 1,852 to 1,454 votes, despite the latter's endorsement by the Norfolk Landmark and the Norfolk Virginian. Appointed to a low-ranking seat on the Committee on Militia and Police, Connor rarely spoke during his two-year term and did not introduce any legislation. He did not seek reelection in 1877, and the Republicans did not field any candidates for the General Assembly from his district.

In October 1882 Connor paid $900 for fifty acres of land on Hodges Ferry Road in Norfolk County, which he purchased from Stephen B. Carney, a local Conservative political leader. Connor helped establish the Churchland Grove Baptist Church, where in March 1886 he became a trustee and helped acquire land on which to build a sanctuary. He also served as a minister to the congregation. In the spring of 1887 he was once again elected a justice of the peace for Western Branch for a two-year term, and he mounted a successful reelection campaign two years later. His second wife died of heart disease on December 31, 1889. Miles Connor died of asthma on June 28, 1893. His funeral took place at the Churchland Grove Baptist Church, but the place of his burial is not recorded.

Time Line

  • Early 1830s - Miles Connor is born enslaved in Norfolk County, the son of Richard Connor and Matilda Connor.
  • November 1866 - By this date Miles Connor, a former slave, is working as a laborer in Norfolk County and is married to Lucy Fisher Connor.
  • October 27, 1870 - Miles Connor marries his second wife, Joanna Watts.
  • 1872 - Miles Connor is reelected to a three-year term as justice of the peace for the Western Branch area of Norfolk County.
  • July 1874 - Miles Connor takes his seat on the Norfolk County board of supervisors and is appointed to the Committees on Auditing, Accounts, Contingent Expenses and Claims, and Roads and Bridges.
  • November 1875 - Miles Connor, a Republican and former slave, defeats the white Conservative John Richard Lewellen, a former Confederate army officer, for a seat in the House of Delegates representing a district in Norfolk County.
  • October 1882 - Miles Connor pays $900 for fifty acres of land on Hodges Ferry Road in Norfolk County, which he purchases from Stephen B. Carney, a local Conservative political leader.
  • March 1886 - Miles Connor becomes a trustee of Churchland Grove Baptist Church in Norfolk County. He helped to establish the congregation and to acquire land on which to build a sanctuary. He also serves as a minister.
  • Spring 1887 - Miles Connor is again elected a justice of the peace for the Western Branch area of Norfolk County for a two-year term.
  • December 31, 1889 - Miles Connor's second wife, Joanna Watts, dies of heart disease.
  • June 28, 1893 - Miles Connor dies of asthma in Norfolk County. His place of burial is unrecorded.
Further Reading
Jackson, Luther Porter. Negro Office-Holders in Virginia, 1865–1895. Norfolk, Virginia: Guide Quality Press, 1945.
Persinger, Silver. "Connor, Miles." In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 3, edited by Sara B. Bearss, et al., 402. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2006.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Persinger, S., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Miles Connor (d. 1893). (2013, December 18). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Connor_Miles_d_1893.

  • MLA Citation:

    Persinger, Silver and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Miles Connor (d. 1893)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 18 Dec. 2013. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: May 30, 2013 | Last modified: December 18, 2013


Contributed by Silver Persinger and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography