Hiram Rhoades Revels was the first African American United States Senator, filling the seat left vacant by Jefferson Davis in 1861 when Mississippi seceded from the Union.
Born in the 1820s in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Hiram Revels was the son of free parents of mixed African American and Native American ancestry. Revels moved with his family to Lincolnton, North Carolina in 1842, where he became a barber. Two years later he left the South and enrolled at Beech Grove Seminary, a Quaker institution near Liberty, Indiana. In 1845 he entered Darke County (Ohio) Seminary for Negroes. The same year Revels was ordained a minister in a Baltimore African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. In the early 1850s he married Phoebe A. Bass of Zanesville, Ohio, and together they had six children.
Hiram Revels traveled across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, Missouri, Maryland, Kentucky and Tennessee, preaching to both free and enslaved African Americans. He moved his ministry to an AME church in St. Louis in 1853, but moved again after only a year, due to a dispute with the local bishop. Revels ultimately left the AME denomination and enrolled at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois for two years (1857-1858). He then returned to Baltimore where he was appointed the first African American pastor of the Madison Street Presbyterian Church, a position he held until 1863. Between 1863 and 1865 Revels served as a chaplain in the Union Army and helped recruit and organize black Union Army work battalions in Maryland and Missouri. He also founded a black high school in St. Louis and several churches.
After the Civil War, he continued traveling, preaching in Leavenworth, Kansas; Louisville, Kentucky; and New Orleans, Louisiana. On June 1868, Revels became the presiding elder at a church in Natchez, Mississippi, and shortly thereafter he was appointed to the city board of aldermen.
As a prominent, highly educated African American, Revels was encouraged by many to seek higher office. He ran for the Adams county seat in the state