Lieutenant governor, jurist, merchant. Gleaves was born July 4, 1819, in Philadelphia, the son of a free black Haitian and an Englishwoman. Educated in Philadelphia and New Orleans, he worked for a time as a trader and steward on the Mississippi River. He lived in Ohio and Pennsylvania from the mid-1840s to the mid-1860s, where he was active in the Prince Hall Masons and helped organize lodges throughout the North. At some point before 1870, he married his wife, Georgianna.
In September 1866 Gleaves moved to Beaufort, South Carolina, where he practiced law and entered into business with Robert Smalls as a merchant and factor. He helped form the South Carolina Union League and was instrumental in the organization of the Republican Party in South Carolina, serving as president of the party’s state convention in 1867 and as a state executive committeeman in 1874. During Reconstruction, Gleaves held several state and local offices. From 1870 to 1872, he served as a trial justice, probate judge, and commissioner of elections in Beaufort County. In 1870 he was arrested and charged with election fraud. His first trial resulted in a conviction, but in a second trial he was acquitted. He was elected lieutenant governor of the state in 1872 and reelected in 1874, in which capacity he served as president ex officio of the S.C. Senate. Gleaves also served in the South Carolina state militia as a major and judge advocate in the First Brigade, colonel and aide to the governor, and colonel and judge advocate in the Second Division. He was a trustee of the South Carolina Agricultural College and Mechanics’ Institute in 1874 and a warden of Beaufort in 1876.
In 1876 Gleaves ran for reelection on the ticket with incumbent governor Daniel H. Chamberlain. Claiming victory in the general election, Gleaves presided over the first session of the Fifty-Second General Assembly from November 28 to December 22, 1876. When federal authorities recognized Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wade Hampton as governor, however, Gleaves resigned on April 24, 1877. Hampton then appointed him a trial justice for Beaufort on June 9, 1877.
Gleaves left South Carolina in 1877, when a Richland County grand jury indicted him for issuing fraudulent pay certificates to state legislators. He moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for two years as a clerk in the U.S. Treasury Department before returning to South Carolina as a special inspector of customs for the sixth customs district from 1880 to 1882. After 1882, he moved back to Washington, where he worked as a waiter and steward for the Jefferson Club. Gleaves died in Washington in November 1907.
Bailey, N. Louise, Mary L. Morgan, and Carolyn R. Taylor, eds. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776–1985. 3 vols. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1986.
Foner, Eric. Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders during Reconstruction. Rev. ed. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996.