From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Ross, Jacob Allen (aka J. Allen Ross)

(born: 1847) 

Rev. J. Allen Ross was born in Kentucky and said to be from Frankfort, KY. He was a Methodist minister,  lawyer, politician, and civil rights leader. Rev. Ross was also a very controversial figure who was seen as a good person by some and as trouble by others. He had many run-ins with the law that were often written about in the newspapers. He was quick to defend the rights of African Americans and himself. He was shot several times, surviving each time. He was also depicted in the media as a shady character.

In 1899, Rev. Ross was sentenced to five months in prison after he and John Albers charged Louisa Coleman a fraudulent pension fee in Jericho, KY. Rev. Ross had received the $350 charged to Louisa Coleman in payment for the assistance he and Albers provided her for a pension claim that resulted in a $1,000 pension check. The official fee for pension commissioners' legal services on pension claims was $25. John Albers was fired and Rev. Ross went to prison.

Rev. Ross is sometimes described as a mulatto with one arm. It is uncertain if the arm was lost during the U.S. Civil War or if it was shot off in a fight. Rev. Ross was an aggressive political fighter, first as a Republican  then as a Democrat. He was secretary of the National Negro Democratic Executive Committee and later as an organizer of the Negro Democratic Party in Kentucky in 1895. He was a member of the group of African American men opposed to the Separate Coach Bill in Kentucky. All of these political activities took place after Rev. Ross return to Kentucky.

Rev. Ross had left Kentucky for Mississippi in the late 1860s. In 1870, he was appointed as a Marshal for the Southern District of Mississippi to assist in the enumeration of Washington County for the 9th U.S. Census. That same year Rev. Ross announced that he was a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives in the Mississippi Legislature. In 1871, Rev. Ross was a candidate for sheriff of Washington County, MS. He won the election but was either prevented from posting the required bond or didn't post the bond by the deadline, so the position was declared vacant. Rev. Ross was elected a second time, but it was said that enough ballot boxes were thrown away to deny him the seat. The matter was taken to court.

In 1873, Rev. Ross and Mississippi Senator Rev. William Gray were allies in a shooting incident that resulted from a public accommodations dispute. It was one of many public disputes for both men while in Mississippi. Rev. Ross was badly injured in the shooting. He survived, and in 1875 was in another shooting incident where he was again shot, this time more than once. He again survived. Rev. Ross would leave Mississippi and returned to Kentucky by 1876. Rev. William Gray, his friend and ally and a former Mississippi Senator, came to Kentucky with him.

Rev. William Gray (1841-1919) was born in St. Louis, MO and died in Chicago, IL. He was a Mississippi State Senator from 1870-1875. While in Kentucky, Rev. Ross and Rev. Gray are mentioned again and again in the newspapers for busting up Democrat convention meetings and elections. They made a lot of enemies and would need escorts and security.

In 1876, Rev. Gray was indicted for embezzling funds from the Baptist Church. During his time in Kentucky, Rev. Gray was arrested on various charges. He was also shot at, and he shot someone. Source: "Brigadier, senator and preacher," Courier-Journal (Louisville), 3/3/1877. Rev. Gray, his wife Salena, and his mother Sarah all lived on Pine Street in Lexington, KY according to the 1880 U.S. Census. Rev. William Gray was pastor of the First Independent Baptist Church at the corner of Main and Merino [source: p. 13 in Williams' Lexington City Directory, for 1881-82]. Rev. Gray would leave Kentucky in the 1880s and later served as the pastor of a church in St. Paul, MN, before moving on to Chicago, IL. Read more about Rev. William Gray at the Against All Odds webpage at the Mississippi State University Libraries.

With his return to Kentucky, Rev. Ross founded and served as editor of the newspaper Visitor (also referred to as Baptist Visitor) in Lexington, according to the 1877 city directory. After Rev. Gray left Kentucky, Rev. Ross switched from the Republican Party to the Democrat Party. He said the switch in parties was the reason for his being brought up on charges in the church. At the time, Rev. Ross was pastor of the AME Church in Jericho, Henry County, KY, and he denied all charges.

In October 1888, Dennis Madden struck Rev. Ross in the head with a rock when Rev. Ross was being escorted to the courthouse in Flemingsburg, KY. Madden was jailed and fined. In November 1888, Dennis Madden was tried for the charges of assault and battery for striking Rev. Ross and was acquitted by a jury. Dennis Madden (1850-1896) was employed as a servant for E. E. Pearce, a Flemingsburg banker. 

In 1892, Rev. Ross was considered missing, although  he may have gone into hiding. In any case, an ad was placed in the Freeman newspaper asking that anyone who knew of his whereabouts should contact the newspaper. Rev. Ross would reappear in Louisville,  where he was a lawyer. He is listed in the 1904 city directory as a partner in [Isaac E.] Black, Jennings, and Ross. He is listed in the 1910 U.S. Census as Allen J. Ross, who was a widower.

It is not known at this time when or where Rev. Jacob Allen Ross died. 

SOURCES: Kentucky's Black Heritage, by Kentucky Commission on Human Rights; Jacob Allen Ross (Washington County) webpage at the Mississippi State University Libraries, Against All Odds: The First Black Legislators in Mississippi; "Census Appointments," Weekly Mississippi Pilot, 5/7/1870; "J. Allen Ross," New National Era, 2/22/1872; "The town of Greenville...," Vicksburg Herald, 4/10/1873; "Full Particulars of the Ross-Gray Row of last Thursday," Vicksburg Herald, 8/17/1875; p. 91 in R. C. Hellrigle & Co.'s Lexington Directory 1877-78; "On many charges," Courier-Journal, 2/29/1888; "Information is wanted," Freeman, 6/11/1892, p. 4; "The Penalty for hitting a colored Democrat," 11/12/88, p. 2; "Dennis Madden," Evening Bulletin, 11/29/88, p. 2; "Colored Democrats," Courier-Journal, 1/16/1895; "Surprised Albers. Convicted after winning at examining trial. J. Allen Ross arrested," Courier-Journal, 4/14/1899; and p. 1150 in Caron's Directory of the City of Louisville for 1904

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Franklin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Henry County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Fleming County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Frankfort, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jericho, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Flemingsburg, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Ross, Jacob Allen (aka J. Allen Ross),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 12, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-10-10 16:58:04