LAKE CITY, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s congressional delegation wants a post office to be named in honor of a 19th-century postmaster who was lynched because he was black and refused to resign.
The state’s entire Washington delegation co-sponsored a bill to name Lake City’s post office after Frazier B. Baker, The Post and Courier reported .
Baker was a schoolmaster in Effingham when President William McKinley named him Lake City’s postmaster in 1897.
An intimidation campaign began almost immediately, starting with letters warning him to stay out of Lake City. That summer, he was shot after refusing to appoint a white deputy to do post office business.
“He did not give in,” Baker’s great-niece Dr. Fostenia Baker told the newspaper. “He was an educated man, and he believed that he should be able to serve his country as any other man.”
People tried to drive Baker out in January 1898 by burning the post office to the ground. Instead, he moved his family to the city’s outskirts and set up a post office there.
On Feb. 22, 1898, at about 1 a.m., an armed mob of whites set fire to the house and post office, then began shooting into the house.
Baker reportedly told his wife, Lavinia, “Come on, we might as well die running as standing.”
He and his baby daughter were shot and killed before they could get out. Lavinia Baker wife and their other five children barely escaped.
No one was charged in the killings. More than a year later, 11 men were arraigned on related federal charges, but a hung jury brought a mistrial.
Democratic U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of Columbia, who introduced the bill, harkened back to the 19th century historian Alexis de Tocqueville’s statement that America’s greatness lies in its ability to repair its faults.
“I view part of my mission in the Congress to do what I can to help our country repair its faults, and this is a fault in need of repair,” Clayburn said.
His bill has passed the House. He expects it to pass the Senate.