His Colored Friend

March 7, 1903


The Richmond Times Dispatch tells the story of Senator Tillman’s “old-time Negro” Joe Gibson; Gibson works on Tillman’s plantation and is described as the Senator’s loyal friend.


His Colored Friend
The Richmond, Va., Times- Dispatch in its issue of February 28th, pays the following tribute to the “old issue” Negro:
“Senator Tillman has on his plantation in South Carolina a Negro man named Joe Gibson, who has lived with him for thirty years. Joe has charge of the premises, carries the keys and takes care of everything in Mr. Tillman’s absence. In speaking of this man the other day, the Senator said:
“ ‘I do not know whether I belong to Joe, or Joe belongs to me. Anyhow, we have been together for thirty years, and we have agreed to live together until one or both of us die, and when I go away, if I go first, I know he will shed as sincere a tear as anybody. I would die to protect him from injustice or wrong’
This is one of the old time Negro gentlemen of whom we have often spoken. They are an honor to their race, and to the ‘ole Mis’ who trained them. White men are proud and fortunate to have such Negro friends. The pity is that the dear old gentlemen are fast dying out.”
There is one important thing which Senator Tillman failed to state in his references and that is the amount of salary he was paying this faithful servant of ante-bellum days. As he doesn’t belong to Joe, we presume that he thinks that Joe belongs to him.
But the white labor unions are on the field of action now and they are successfully demanding the discharge of these old-time Negroes and the installation of the new-time white men in their places. This has constituted the cause of some of the bitterest contests ever known in this section. To be plain, it is this old-time Negro element that makes the precipitation of a race war impossible.
There are white men who will risk almost their lives to help and protect certain colored people for whom they have formed an attachment and there are colored people who will do the same thing for certain white people, whom they respect, esteem and love.
A singular case of this appreciation occurred in this city at the Chancery Court, then presided over by the late Judge J. C. Lamb. Mr. John M. Shepherd was the janitor and no colored man has ever been appreciated by his white friends more than he. The white men’s unions demanded his discharge and insisted upon a white man being appointed to his position. Judge Lamb refused positively to do it.
Mr. Shepherd retained the position up to the time of Judge Lamb’s retirement and death…
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Rose Williams


“His Colored Friend,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed August 24, 2019, http://blackvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/575.