Thomas Ezekiel Miller was born June 17, 1849, in Ferrebeeville, S.C. near present-day Ridgeland. He was raised by Richard and Mary Ferrebee Miller, both freed slaves. Due to his fair skin, there was much speculation about his biological father. In 1851, Miller moved to Charleston with his family where he attended illegal schools for free Black children.
Miller attended Lincoln University in Chester County, Pa. and upon graduation in 1872, he returned to South Carolina where he became school commissioner of Beaufort County. Later he studied law at the recently integrated University of South Carolina before returning to Beaufort to set up his practice. Miller was elected to the S.C. General Assembly where he served until 1880 when he went to the state Senate.
Miller returned to the S.C. House of Representatives in 1877 and served on the Republican State Executive Committee from 1878 to 1880 and was state party chairman in 1884.
In 1890, Miller served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the seat formerly occupied by Black Representative and Civil War hero Robert Smalls, although he only served for a few months due to election fraud, which many registered Black voters were prohibited from casting their ballots resulting in his opponent, incumbent William Elliott being initially declared the winner. After his time in Congress, Miller remained active in politics, serving as a member of the 1895 Constitutional Convention. He helped establish South Carolina State University in 1896 and served as their first president until 1911.
Miller was married to Anna Hume and had nine children. He passed away in 1938 in Charleston, S.C.
Presented through a partnership between the South Carolina Department of Education and South Carolina ETV.
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