James D. Lynch was the first black person to hold a major political office in the state of Mississippi. Lynch was a Reconstruction era politician and served as Secretary of the State.
Lynch was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother was a slave, and his father was a white merchant and minister. He obtained his early education at an elementary school instructed by Rev. Daniel Payne of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. He also attended Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire, where he spent two years, and then moved to Indianapolis where he committed himself to ministry. Lynch began preaching at a small church in the town of Galena, Indiana.
Lynch joined religious missionaries in South Carolina after the Civil War. While an official of the Methodist Episcopal Church, he helped establish churches and schools for African American adults and children between 1865 and 1866.
He became known for his interest in land policy, education, and the economic improvement of black freedmen. Lynch was a champion of black rights but took a moderate stance in attaining those rights in order not to alienate white voters. He was reelected Secretary of State in 1871 and in 1872 served as a delegate to the National Republican Convention in Philadelphia.
During his second term however, Lynch and his black supporters became increasingly disillusioned with the Reconstruction process. Lynch campaigned unsuccessfully for the Republican Party nomination for Congress. Lynch died December 18th 1872, at the age of 34 as a result of kidney disease.