John Mitchell Jr. served as editor of the Richmond Planet and founded the Mitchell Mechanics Savings Bank. He was appointed to the position as editor of the Richmond Planet at the age of twenty-one and quickly became well-known for his determination to expose the racial injustices of the time.
By the age of 28, he was elected to Richmond’s Board o Aldermen from Jackson Ward and reelected in 1894. After Virginia’s Republican Party convention effectively disavowed interest in African Americans and adopted what was referred to as a “lily-white” platform in 1921, Mitchell ran for governor on an all-black—”lily-black”—independent Republican ticket.
While serving as a member of the Knights of Pythias, he led other newspaper editors in an organized outcry against “Southern injustices” and lynchings.
Mitchell founded and served as president of the Mitchell Mechanics Savings Bank. He formed the bank as a place for Richmond’s black townspeople to save their money and do their banking. However, by 1922, the bank was in crisis. Mitchell was accused of misusing tens of thousands of dollars of the bank’s funds. In a fight that went to the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, Mitchell countered the charges and accused the state’s establishment of retaliating against him for his run at the governorship the previous year.
After a fight for a little over a year, Mitchell was cleared on all charges. However, the bank was eventually lost and so was all of Mitchell’s savings and assets, a blow he could not recover from. He continued to work as editor of the Richmond Planet until 1929, when he collapsed in the office of his beloved paper and died at his home on December 3, 1929.