The Rev. Dr. James Preston Poindexter was a highly respected
political and social justice leader in Columbus with influence across the state
and the nation during the 19th century.
Poindexter was born in Richmond, Virginia, on October 26,
1819. As a young man, he received a formal education only to the age of 10 when
he was put to work as an apprentice to a barber. He married at 18 and moved to
Columbus in 1838. He lived at 41 N. 4th Street and owned and
operated a barbershop across from the Ohio Statehouse.
Rev. Poindexter was called to be the pastor of the
Anti-Slavery Baptist Church that started in 1847. The members of the Second
Baptist Church, one of the oldest African-American congregations in the city,
call Rev. Poindexter to be their pastor in 1858, where he served for 40 years
until he retired in 1898.
Rev. Poindexter was the first African-American to serve on
Columbus City Council. As an advocate for education for all children, he was
elected to four terms on the Columbus School Board beginning in 1884. Among his
many recognitions, he received gubernatorial appointments to serve as a trustee
of the State School for the Blind and as a member of the Ohio State Forestry
Bureau. He was a leader of black citizens in the Republican Party of Abraham
Lincoln. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1876 and a
trustee of Wilberforce University. In 1887, the State University of Louisville,
Kentucky, awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree to Rev. Poindexter.
Rev. Poindexter wrote for the Ohio State Journal and was
sought out by leaders of both parties, governors and presidents for advice on
issues of the day. He spoke against injustice affecting all citizens. He was a
voice for the poor, forgotten, and the oppressed, speaking out for reforming
schools and civil service.
Rev. Poindexter’s life work was memorialized in the naming
of the one of the first affordable public housing complexes in Columbus and the
nation as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. President Roosevelt, along
with Governor Bricker, Mayor Green and General Hodges, dedicated the newly
constructed Poindexter Village complex of 426 apartments on October 12, 1940.