In honor of Black History Month, I thought I'd make note of one of Nashville's early black lawyers and councilmen - James C. Napier. He is pictured below in a 1931 photograph with his wife.
Bill Carey at Tennessee History for Kids summarized some of the high points of Mr. Napier's life:
James Napier was born in Nashville in 1845. Most African Americans in the South were slaves back then, but Napier’s parents were free.
After the Civil War, Napier became a leader in the black community. In the late 19th century he was at the heart of every political struggle fought by black residents in Nashville. Councilman Napier led the battle to get Nashville’s government to hire black teachers for black public schools, and Citizen Napier helped organize Nashville’s fire engine company.
In 1911 Napier was chosen by President William Taft to be Register of the Treasury. Napier stayed with the treasury until March 1913, and during that time his signature appeared on all paper money printed by the federal government.
What may be lesser known is that Mr. Napier resigned as Register of the Treasury in lieu of complying with an order to segregate his office.
As Nashville changes, generations pass and our City becomes more diverse, it's important to remind ourselves of those who came before and the sacrifices they made - like James C. Napier. If elected Vice Mayor, I will make sure that the courage of leaders like James C. Napier inspire the actions of the Metro Council.