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John Walter Boyd Matthews

Member From: 1871 - 1873

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  • Bio: John Walter Boyd Matthews, member of the House of Delegates (1871–1873), was born free in 1840 in Petersburg. His mother named him after the white planter who bequeathed land and enslaved workers to her and was her father. During the American Civil War (1861-1865) he worked as a barber and in May 1870 he had a job in the city’s customs house. In 1871 he won election to a two-year term in the House of Delegates representing Petersburg. Active in the legislature, Matthews introduced bills, made motions, and spoke more than most Black delegates. Aggressive, if not successful, his failed propositions included abolishing chain gangs for prisoners, raising taxes on alcoholic beverages, and pushing for laws to enforce the state constitution that guaranteed equal rights to all citizens. Matthews was a founding officer of the Petersburg Grant and Wilson Club and served as deputy collector at the City Point customs house. In 1875 he attended a state convention in Richmond that addressed the political and economic discrimination faced by African Americans in Virginia. Mathews died of a stroke at his home in Petersburg on July 11, 1879.
Session District District Number Party Leadership Committees
1871-1873 Petersburg Claims

*The information within this interactive and searchable application has been researched extensively by the House Clerk’s Office. As with any historical records of this age and breadth, there may be discrepancies and/or inconsistencies within records obtained from a variety of credible sources. Any feedback is encouraged at history@house.virginia.gov.

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