Stamp would commemorate late Sen. Blanche Kelso Bruce

Published 3:32 pm Thursday, October 5, 2006

U.S. Sen. Trent Lott wants to honor with a commemorative postage stamp the first black to serve a full term in the Senate, saying Blanche Kelso Bruce broke racial barriers at a turbulent time in the nation’s history.

Bruce was elected to the Senate in 1874 by the Mississippi legislature and served from 1875 until 1881.

“On February 14, 1879, he broke a second barrier by becoming the first African American to preside over a Senate session,” said Lott, R-Miss. “He was a leader in the nationwide fight for African American rights, fighting for desegregation of the Army and protection of voting rights.”

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Lott on Wednesday introduced a bill in the Senate that would create a Bruce stamp.

“Mississippi takes great pride in our leaders who often quietly, with little fanfare, blaze paths for the rest of the nation to follow,” Lott said. “Senator Blanche Kelso Bruce is one such great pioneer, and I call on my colleagues to join me in honoring him.”

Bruce was born into slavery in Virginia on March 1, 1841, and spent his early years in Virginia and Missouri. He was 20 years old when the Civil War broke out and was rejected by the Union Army because of his race.

In 1869, Bruce moved to Mississippi to become a planter on a cotton plantation, and later became involved in politics. During his political career, Bruce was a member of the Mississippi Levee Board, and served as the sheriff and tax collector for Bolivar County.

“It was Blanche Kelso Bruce’s perseverance, selfless public service and commitment to Mississippi that led the Mississippi State Legislature to elect him to serve in the U.S. Senate,” Lott said.