Black History: Special Delivery!!
Pierre Caliste Landry (1841 – 1921) made history by becoming the first African American elected as a mayor in the United States. He was born enslaved. His mother, Marcelite, was an enslaved plantation cook. His father, Roseman Landry was a white laborer. He was sent to live with a free African American couple who enrolled him in a local school for free children. It was the wish of Landry’s owner that he be freed, upon the owner’s death. However, to settle the owner’s debts at the time of his death, Landry was sold for $1,665 to Marius St. Colombe Bringer, owner of the Houmas Plantation. Residing in the plantation mansion, Landry was able to continue his schooling, and, was designated as superintendent of the yard. He was permitted to go into business with the plantation’s head butler. Together they operated a store on the plantation.
With the passing of the 13th Amendment, Landry gained his freedom and changed his first name to Pierre in 1866. He then relocated to Donaldsonville, Louisiana, which was an African American community, and, also the former capital of Louisiana from 1829-1831. Landry opened three schools for children within his first year there and also opened a store. Landry married Amanda Grigsby in 1867. The couple had 12 children. When she died, he then married Florence Simpkins and they had two children. Unusual for the time, all 14 children attended college. Florence Simpkins Landry died in 1905.
In 1868, he was unanimously elected as Mayor of Donaldsonville; making him the first African American mayor in the United States. Landry served one term as mayor. He also served in several other professional roles, including Justice of The Peace, Ascension Parish School Board Member, Tax Collector, Superintendent of Schools, and Police Jury President. Landry was also appointed as Post Master, by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. He also served as a state house representative. As a state house representative, Landry would propose a bill to establish, New Orleans University, which would later merge with Straight College, and Gilbert Academy to form Dillard University in 1935, to help educate African American students. Landry would also go on to serve as a state senator for the eighth district in 1874 where he served until 1878. He also ran a private law practice for 12 years.
Landry held several leadership roles and served as a minister for fifty years in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Prior to his death, he joined a Missionary Baptist Church. Landry died in 1821 at age 80.