My Contribution: I had the distinction of being the first African American who ever held a state clerkship position in Harrisburg and worked as a clerk from 1872-75. I served the military in the Civil War and proudly supported my country in times of peace through the GAR and the National Guard. I was active in Harrisburg poli- tics through serving as alderman, and I protected African Americans who wanted to exercise their right to vote after the passage of the Fifteenth amendment.
My Legacy: Together with many of my fellow friends and activists, I encouraged civic participation and involvement in politics for Afri- can Americans of Harrisburg. I was also active in improving public school experiences for students, through the creation of the Lincoln Building (later William Howard Day school). I assisted many people to make their voices heard through the ballot box.
About Me: “One of my abiding recollections is of burly Major John W. Simpson mounted on a store box near the polling window at Um- berger’s Cross Keys hotel…. As the perspiring Major shouted and gesticulated, he generally bore down all opposition and put through all the multitudinous voters he brought to the polls.” — J. Howard Wert, Harrisburg Patriot, December 9, 1912.
Full Name: John W. SImpson
Birth Date: February 24, 1835
Death Date: April 7, 1899, from Bright’s Disease (buried in Lincoln Cemetery, Penbrook , Pennsylvania)
Place of Birth: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Race: Black (1860 and 1880 Federal Censuses) and “Mulatto” (1870 Federal Census
Places of Residence: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: 137 Short Street, 133 Short Street, 613 Briggs Street, and 665 Briggs Street.
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Resident; political activist and supporter of enfranchisement for African American males
Family Members: Father: Charles Simpson. Mother: Rebecca Simpson. Siblings: Thomas Simpson, Frances Catto Simpson, Charles Simpson, Mary Ann Simpson, and Rebecca Simpson. Wife: M1: Mary Susan Simpson (d. 1882). Wife: M2: Carrie (Poindexter) Simpson. Child: Marie Antoinette Simpson. Niece: Fanny Simpson. Nephew: Charles Simpson
Education: Attended public school in Philadelphia
Occupations: Shoemaker. Clerk, Land office of Pennsylvania, under surveyor General Robert B. Beath. Alderman for Eighth Ward. Organizer, Olympic Baseball Club (1870s-1890s). Father
Church Membership: Bethel A.M.E. Church
Activism: Served in Civil War, 24th regiment (sergeant), February 1865 to October 1865; serve in 12th infantry (major), National Guard of Pennsylvania; Post No. 520 GAR (organizer and member); served in Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania, Grand Master of Chosen Friends Lodge, No 43, Free and Accepted Masons (grand master); Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, Brotherly Love Lodge, No 896 (member); New Orleans Exposition to exhibit the skill of African Americans of Harrisburg (assistant honorary commissioner). Cato Literary Association (acting member); Pennsylvania Equal Rights League (acting member); and Equal Rights Club of Dauphin County (acting member).
Connections: Josephine L. Bibb, Joseph Popel, George Galbraith, John Quincy Adams, Morris H. Layton, Sr., George Imes, James Auter, Jr., James Stocks, and William Dorsey.