This period marks the emergence of Poindexter as an influential political figure, and it is not surprising that his name was prominent among the signers of a "call of the colored men of Ohio to a mass convention to be held in this city on the 18th inst. (January 18, 1871)." The object of this convention, the notice stated, "is to so organize the colored people that their votes shall be made available for securing and maintaining for ourselves and our children the legitimate benefits resulting from our newly acquired rights under the constitution."18 This convention reaffirmed allegiance to the Republican Party and endorsed the nomination of Ulysses S. Grant for President.
Later in the same year an article appeared in a Columbus newspaper entitled, "Rev. James Poindexter for Senator." It was stated, in what was a careful estimate, that:
As Senator he would rank with the ablest debaters in that body. If he can be induced to become a candidate, he is entirely competent to discuss the questions at issue between the political parties with any gentleman the opposition may bring against him. Mr. Poindexter is scholarly, of polished address, and will make a good impression wherever he goes.19
On August 1, 1873, Poindexter delivered an address at Chillicothe, Ohio, on "The Duty of the Citizen of the United States as a Voter." An excerpt from this address will suffice to show the speaker's opinion of the moral and political responsibility attached to American citizenship.
First, he [the citizen] must acquaint himself with the object of govenment or he can not intelligently labor for its success. Secondly, he must attend all elections because those of opposing principles will be there; to stay away himself is to suffer his cause to go by default. Thirdly, he must not support his party when it becomes the advocate of bad measures, because he is individually responsible to his country for his political action. Fourthly, he must not vote for unworthy candidates, because weak or corrupt men can not be depended upon to carry out sound measures. Colored persons should demand nothing because they are colored; [and] should consent to have nothing withheld from them on that account.20
Late in August 1873 Poindexter was approved by the Republican State Central Committee as a candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives. Although it was said of him in the press that he was a gentleman who would not suffer in any aspect by comparison with any member of the body for which he was named, he was defeated in the election. Poindexter's barbershop was not only the means of support for him and his family; it was also the place where he became well acquainted with many state and national politicians and gained considerable elightenment about public affairs. His shop, at 61 South High Street, was across from the State House, and close to the Neil House, the headquarters of numerous public men of prominence. Among his customers, also, were well-known professional and business men. They liked to patronize so convenient a place whose proprietor was a decided character, always courteous and attentive. He never refused to serve colored patrons.
In 1876 Poindexter served as delegate to the Republican National Convention,21 and during the subsequent presidential campaign he actively supported the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes. In consequence of this there was talk among friends and admirers in favor of his appointment as minister to Haiti. A basic quality of his character may be easily seen from his reaction:
Two years more and I shall have earned my bread for fifty years at the barber's chair and will have been a preacher of the gospel for forty years; and to lift me out of these pursuits into the dazzling one of a foreign mission may be highly injurious to myself and by no means advantageous to the public service. Hence, I am not worried about the Haytian Mission.22
In the centennial year Poindexter was again nominated for the state legislature, only to be defeated again. Success in the campaign would have pleased him, provided he could have won in a manner consistent with his way of life. He had already made it clear that he asked no favors of voters. In an Emancipation Day address in 1873 he said:Let no gentleman vote for me simply that [sic] he has known me a long time and thinks me a clever fellow. Let none vote for me that [sic]I am a colored man; he that would vote for me because I am a colored man would vote against me if I were a white man. . . . In clothing one with public trust the question should be, Does the candidate possess the ability and the integrity to discharge the duties of the office with credit to himself and advantage to the State? If he does, is he, too, gentlemanly in his bearing as to make it a pleasure to his associates to cooperate with him in measures promoting the interests of his country?23
18 Ohio State Journal, January 7, 1871
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