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W(illiam) Hines Furbush was born in Kentucky about 1839. He served in the 42nd United States Colored Infantry in 1865-66, then emigrated to Liberia. The 1870 census shows him living in St. Francis Township, Phillips County, with wife Susan and two children. It is not clear what he did until 1873, but he must have been considered successful, as he was elected to the state legislature in 1873 to represent Phillips County. During that period, he helped to partition a portion of Phillips County to form Lee County. He was described a “a bright mulatto, intelligent, and quick to catch a point. He makes a good talk and wields considerable influence among the colored members [of the legislature].” He also was one of four Black plaintiffs (another was Richard Dawson) in a suit filed by the Black law firm of Wheeler & Gibbs in 1873. They sued a barkeeper for refusing to serve them and were successful.
After his term as state representative, Furbush was elected sheriff of Lee County from 1873 to 1878. In 1874, he married for the second time, to Emma S. Owens, a school teacher. Elected in 1873 as a Republican, he switched to the Democrats in 1878 during his time as sheriff. In 1879, he served a second term as state representative, this time as a Democrat representing Lee county. That period was turbulent, with Furbush accused of political corruption. He survived this, but then left Arkansas for Colorado, where he was reported to engage in mining.
Furbush returned to Arkansas in 1886, again involving himself in politics. He also began to practice law. There is no information on what legal training he may have received. In 1890, he served as editor of the National Democrat, the party’s weekly newspaper. Also in 1890, he is listed as an attorney in the Little Rock (Pulaski County), Arkansas, City Directory. His son, Edgar, graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1890 and, in an application for a State Department position, states that he practiced law in Little Rock in 1890. The senior Furbush left Arkansas in 1891 and lived first in South Carolina, then moved to Georgia, and finally, to Indiana, where he died in 1902.
Sources: Blake Wintory, “William Hines Furbush: African-American Carpetbagger, Republican, Fusionist, and Democrat,” LXIII Ark. Hist. Q. 107 (Summer 2004); Arkansas Gazette, 2/1/1873; e-mail dtd 8/3/2006 from Doug Wilson (re Edgar Furbush); 1890 Little Rock City Directory; Eric Foner, Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders during Reconstruction 79-80 (1993);
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