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A Founding Family Part 4: The Kinckles Jrs.

February 24, 2017

Generally in the course of history, it is the women who have faded into the past more than the men. Their stories are generally less covered, their names appear less in documents, they moved less in public spaces. Therefore, it is interesting that in the case of the three Kinckle siblings that it is the only son, John Henry Kinckle Jr., who is harder to trace through the historical record. We have no known picture of him at this time. This may be simply be because of fact that he spent most of his life away from Virginia and his alma mater, but our resources on his sisters Alice Walker and Rosa Daniel far out-weigh our information on him.

John Henry Kinckle Jr. was the youngest of the three Kinckle children; born in 1859, just a year after his sister Rosa. Although we don’t know for sure, he probably attended the Lynchburg public schools like his sisters did.

catalogHe attended VUU (still called Richmond Theological Institute at the time) where both his brothers-in-law were teaching and he worked beside them as a student teacher. The catalog page on the left lists Rev J. Endom Jones, Rev David N. Vassar, and Mr. J. H. Kinckle Jr. Three brothers-in-law all dedicated to higher education. Kinckle Jr. graduated in 1883. He married Mary Augusta Stokes in 1885.

He eventually followed in his sister’s footsteps and attended Howard, graduating from Howard Law in 1886 and passing the bar exam in Virginia the same year. In 1887, John Henry Kinckle Jr. and a fellow Howard graduate Rollins H. Merchant became for the first Black law firm in Lynchburg, Merchant & Kinckle.1 He also may have spent some time helping his father in his porter business since an 1887 Lynchburg Directory advertises the “John Kinckle and Son” baggage business.2baggage

John and Mary had a son, John Vassar Kinckle (seemingly named after his uncle David N. Vassar) on October 19, 1899. The Kinckles did not stay long in Lynchburg, instead moving to Georgia where John had to once again pass the bar in order to practice. Kinckle petitioned the bar in 1891 for the right to take the bar exam. Georgia had not allowed any Black lawyer to take the bar exam previously and many white judges refused to administer the examination to Kinckle. Finally,Judge Robert Falligant examined him and being “well satisfied…readily admitted him”.3 Kinckle became the first Black lawyer to practice on the Eastern Judicial Court.4


The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 18, 1891

Unfortunately, shortly thereafter in 1902, Mary Kinckle died. Kinckle very quickly re-married to Janice Bryan (known as Jennie). John and Jennie had two more children, Gwendolyn Mae and Edmund Burke in 1906 and 1907.

Kinckle’s practice in Savannah grew slowly. “[A]ccording to one source, ‘Savannah blacks who had legal problems usually carried them to white lawyers.’ Other blacks simply did not have the money to afford a lawyer.”5  But Kinckle joined with the lawyer Abraham L. Tucker to form a firm.6 By 1912, Kinckle had become a politically active citizen of Georgia and represented the National Progressive Party, a third party lead by former President Teddy Roosevelt, as a delegate to the state convention.7

Kinckle was well regarded as a lawyer and argued at least one case in front of the Georgia Supreme Court.8 At his death in 1922, Kinckle had been a lawyer in Savannah for 35 years.9 Since he was in his forties when his two younger children were born, he did not live to see them married but all three did marry.

Both sons, John Vassar and Edmund Burke became postal workers.10 Gwendolyn, who went by Mae, graduated from college, was very active in the Pittsburgh chapter of the YWCA in the 1930s, and married Howard Dammonds of Pittsburgh.

Hopefully, further research will result in more information regarding Kinckle Jr.’s life.

If you liked this post, please check out the other in this month’s series which cover the families of John Henry Kinckle Jr.’s parents and sisters. Leave us any comments here, on twitter at @VUULibrary or via email at


1. Delaney, Ted, and Phillip Wayne Rhodes. Free Blacks of Lynchburg, Virginia, 1805-1865. Lynchburg: Old City Cemetery, 2001.
2. Lynchburg Virginia City Directory. Lynchburg, 1887, VA.
3. Smith, John C. Emancipation: the making of the black lawyer, 1844-1944. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
4.Smith, Gordon. “A Short History of the Savannah Bar and the Savannah Bar Association.” Savannah Bar Association. 1993. Accessed February 24, 2017.
5. Smith, John C. Emancipation: the making of the black lawyer, 1844-1944. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
6. Sumler-Edmond, Janice. The secret trust of Aspasia Cruvellier Mirault the life and trials of a free woman of color in antebellum Georgia. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2008.
7.Associated Press. “Eleven Negroes; one white for Roosevelt in Savannah.” The Charolette News, July 22, 1912.
8. Reports of Cases Decided in the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia. Atlanta, GA: State Library, 1921.
9. “Lawyer Kinckle Dies in His Savannah Home.” The New York Age, March 25, 1922.
10. “January 7, 2001.” Times Herald-Record. January 07, 2001. Accessed February 24, 2017. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.
Original data: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm.

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