Josiah Thomas Walls was born enslaved on December 30, 1842, on the plantation of Dr. John Walls in Winchester, Virginia. When the Civil War began, Walls was forced into serving a Confederate artilleryman, but he was captured by Union soldiers in May 1862. They emancipated him and he briefly attended school in Philadelphia. By July 1863, he had enlisted in the Third Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troops, in Philadelphia. Discharged in October 1865 in Florida, he remained in that state and served in the state senate from 1869 to 1872 and was a member of the 1868 Florida Constitutional Convention. Walls was elected to Congress in 1870 but lost his seat early in 1873 when the candidate he had defeated successfully challenged his election. Walls had won an at-large seat in 1872 so he returned to Congress and won again in 1874, but early in 1876 he lost his seat once more as a result of another successful challenge to his election. He died on May 15, 1905, in Tallahassee.
Klingman, Peter D. Josiah Walls: Florida's Black Congressman of Reconstruction. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1976.
Ragsdale, Bruce A., and Joel D. Treese. Black Americans in Congress, 1870–1989, Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O., 1990, 149–151.