Robert Elliott represented South Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1871 to 1874, after which he resigned to become Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives.
Elliot was born in Liverpool, England, and very little else is known about his early life. While living in England, Elliott received a basic education. He later graduated from Eton College in England and was trained as a typesetter.
He arrived in South Carolina in 1867 at the age of 25, where he started a law practice. Elliott was a popular and hard-working political organizer who helped organize the local Republican Party.
In 1868, he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. The next year he was appointed assistant adjutant-general, and was the first African-American commanding general of the South Carolina National Guard. As a delegate to the South Carolina constitutional convention in 1868, he defeated the imposition of poll taxes and literacy tests that would prevent Blacks from voting.
He later distinguished himself in Congress with major speeches on behalf of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875. In 1872, Elliott was elected to the House of Representatives with 93 percent of his district’s vote. He served on the Education and Labor and Militia committees. In 1879, he was appointed a customs inspector for the Treasury Department in Charleston, South Carolina. Elliot died in New Orleans in 1884.