TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- Thomas De Saille Tucker was a native West African originating from Sierra Leone. At the age of 12 missionaries from the Mendi Mission brought him to America. The Mendi Mission was established in Sierra Leone in connection with the Amistad revolt. When the thirty-five surviving Africans returned to the Colony of Sierra Leone, the Amistad Committee instructed the Americans to start a ‘Mendi Mission’ in Sierra Leone.
He later attended Oberlin College in Ohio. Established in 1833, Oberlin College was one of the very first colleges in America to educate women and by 1900 one-third of all African American graduates of predominantly white institutions in the United States had graduated from Oberlin. Many of the early leaders of black colleges received their education at Oberlin. While at Oberlin Tucker took leave in 1862 to teach at a school for freedmen in Virginia.After graduating from Oberlin Tucker achieved a law degree at Straight University in New Orleans. The law school only existed between 1874 and 1886.
According to the American Missionary Journal, by 1982, 35 whites and 15 blacks had graduated from the law department. Straight University later became Straight College and eventually was absorbed by the Dillard University. Not long after receiving a law degree Tucker became a member of the Florida Bar and established his own law partnership in Pensacola, Florida. With the help of former Florida Legislator Thomas Van Renssalaer Gibbs, who saw to the passing of the legislation that established the college, Tucker led the Normal College for Colored Students for 14 years before he was forced to resign. Moving to Maryland he returned to practicing law before his death two years later in 1903.