Giles Beecher Jackson was the first African-American to practice law before the Supreme Court of Virginia. He also co-authored “The Industrial History of the Negro Race in Virginia”. Although Jackson was born enslaved, he overcame his obstacles to become an attorney, real estate developer, newspaper publisher, and entrepreneur.
Jackson was born on September 10, 1853; he was one of four children of James and Hulda Jackson. Not much information exists about his father’s background but his mother was enslaved, and by law Jackson and his siblings were slaves as well. During the Civil War, Jackson became the body servant of his owner, Charles G. Dickerson, a Confederate cavalry colonel. After the war, he worked for the Stewart family on the Brook Hill estate in Richmond, where he learned to read and write. Jackson married Sarah Ellen Wallace, and they had fourteen children.
In 1887, Jackson became the first African-American attorney certified to argue before the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The next year, he helped found a bank associated with the United Order of True Reformers, and in 1900 became an aide to Washington, who had just founded the National Negro Business League in Boston. In 1888, Giles wrote the articles of incorporation of the Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers, of which he was a member. The bank deep roots in the tradition of the benevolent societies and fraternal organizations of the era. In 1901, United States President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned Jackson, an honorary colonel and Jackson participated in the presidential inaugural parade. Jackson died in 1924 from cardiac asthma.