FLEMING, THOMAS W. (13 May 1874-18 Jan. 1948) was the first African American elected to CLEVELAND CITY COUNCIL and an active Republican politician until his indictment in 1929. Born to Thomas and Lavina (Green) Fleming in Meadville, PA, Fleming arrived in Cleveland in 1893 to work as a barber. While playing his trade as a barber during the day, he attended the Cleveland Law School at night, passing the state bar examination in 1906. Fleming became active in Republican politics as a protege of HARRY C. SMITH, attending City Council meeting to learn "the art of government" and challenging the established black Republican leadership when it failed to endorse an African American as candidate for the Council. Appointed a member of the Republican State Executive Committee, Fleming was unsuccessful in his first bid for the City Council in 1907, but won a seat as councilman-at-large in 1909. Although he lost his re-election bid in 1911, Fleming was elected councilman from Ward 11 in 1916 and served his constituency until his indictment in 1929 on a much disputed charge of unlawful soliciting and corruption in office, for which he served three years in the Ohio Penitentiary. As a councilman, he facilitated the appointment of AFRICAN AMERICANS to municipal jobs and introduced ordinances to build a public bath house, a gymnasium, and a swimming pool in the Central Avenue area and to prevent organization of a Ku Klux Klan chapter in Cleveland. Fleming co-founded the CLEVELAND JOURNAL in 1903, and with ALBERT D. BOYD formed the Starlight Realty & Investment Co. in 1919 to buy and rent properties in the Central Avenue area. Fleming's first marriage, to Mary Ingels Thompson, ended in divorce in 1910. In 1912, he married Lethia Cousins (see LETHIA COUSINS FLEMING. He had three sons: Russell, Lawrence, and Wallace. Fleming is buried in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY.
Thomas and Lethia Fleming Papers, WRHS.
Fleming, Thomas W. "My Rise and Persecution." Unpublished manuscript, 1932. WRHS.