Benjamin Franklin Randolph

black and white sketch of Benjamin Franklin Randolph

Benjamin Franklin Randolph. Image from South Carolina Encyclopedia.

(1820-1868)  Randolph was born free in Kentucky to parents who may have been of mixed race. He grew up in Morrow County, Ohio, where he received a primary education. He attended preparatory school at Oberlin College and graduated from its collegiate program in 1862. Shortly thereafter he was ordained as a Methodist Episcopal minister, but he served as a Presbyterian chaplain with the Twenty-sixth U.S. Colored Troops at Hilton Head. After the war he returned to the Methodist fold.

Randolph settled in Charleston in 1865 and worked for the American Missionary Association and then the Freedmen’s Bureau as assistant superintendent of schools. He participated in the Colored People’s Convention at Charleston’s Zion Presbyterian Church. By 1867 he was the associate editor of the Charleston Advo- cate, a Methodist publication.

Randolph joined in Reconstruction politics as an active Republican. He strongly supported measures disfranchising illiterate voters and those who failed to pay poll taxes. He also endorsed a constitutional ban on racial discrimination. He spoke in favor of the integration of public schools.  However, none of the constitutional proposals that Randolph endorsed passed.

In 1868 Randolph was elected to represent Orangeburg County in the state Senate. He also served as a county school commissioner. The state Republican convention elected him chair of the state central committee. On October 16, 1868, while campaigning on behalf of the Republican Party, Randolph was assassinated after he stepped off a train in Abbeville County. There were allegations that the Ku Klux Klan was responsible for his murder, but no one was convicted of the crime. Randolph was one of four Republican leaders–Solomon G. W. Dill, James Martin, and Lee Nance were the others–slain during 1868. He was buried in Columbia in the cemetery that now bears his name.