Isaiah Tuppins was the first African American to serve as a mayor in Ohio. He also was the first black man to earn his medical degree in Ohio.
Tuppins was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1854. As a child, his family moved to Xenia, Ohio, where Tuppins spent most of his youth. He eventually returned to Tennessee, where he became a schoolteacher. Tuppins eventually relocated to Ohio, settling in Columbus, where he spent several years working as a barber. He accumulated enough money to enroll at the Columbus Medical College. Tuppins was the first African-American man to graduate from this institution and also was the first black man to graduate with a medical degree from any Ohio college.
Upon receiving his medical degree, Tuppins found employment as a doctor with the Ohio Central Coal Company in Rendville, Ohio, which is located in Perry County. Traditionally, white miners had refused to allow companies to hire African-American miners. William P. Rend, the founder of Rendville and owner of a mine in this community, hired large numbers of African Americans as well as Europeans. Tuppins won election as Rendville's mayor in 1888, becoming the first African-American man to serve as mayor of any community in Ohio. As mayor, Tuppins had to defend his town from white residents of the nearby community of Corning, Ohio. Corning's residents, who were principally miners, did not like the presence of African Americans in Rendville. In 1888, a mob of Corning whites prepared to descend on Rendville, following the murder of a white Corning man presumably by an African-American man from Rendville. Tuppins convinced Corning law enforcement officials to disperse the mob and to protect the accused man. Tuppins also served as Rendville's coroner.
Tuppins died in 1889. His life illustrates the gradual increase in opportunities for people of all races in Ohio.