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Celebrating The Life Of Maxine A. Smith

WHEREAS, Maxine A. Smith was born on October 30, 1929 in Memphis, TN., graduated from Booker T. Washington High School at 16 years of age and earned her A.B. degree from Spelman College and her Master of Arts from Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT; and

WHEREAS, when Smith applied to attend Memphis State University in 1957 and was rejected because of her race, she appealed to the Memphis NAACP for help and joined the Branch's membership efforts and ultimately became the Executive Secretary in 1962 where she served for 33 years; and

WHEREAS, Smith helped to organize the desegregation of the Memphis public schools in 1960 and escorted the first thirteen (13) elementary students to school. She organized lawsuits, sit-ins and marches, including the "Black Monday'' student boycotts that broke the color barrier on the Memphis Board of Education and paved the way for a black to serve as superintendent of the Memphis City Schools; and

WHEREAS, in 1971, Smith was elected to the Memphis Board of Education, a position which she held until her retirement in 1995. As a member of the Board she was instrumental in the selection of Dr. W.W. Herenton as the first African American school superintendent in Memphis and later Mayor of Memphis; and

WHEREAS, Smith has received more than 160 awards for her efforts on behalf of educational equality and civil rights, including the National NAACP Leadership Award, the Bill of Rights Award from the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Whitney H. Young Jr. Award from the National Education Association. She was a member of the Board of Directors of many charitable and civic organizations, including the National Civil Rights Museum, the National NAACP, the Woman's Foundation for Greater Memphis, and the National Kidney Foundation. Smith was also featured in several documentaries about the Civil Rights movement, including the Oscar-nominated Witness from the Balcony of Room 306 and Memphis: the Promised Land; and

WHEREAS, in 1994 Smith was appointed to the Tennessee Board of Regents, the governing body of many public colleges and universities in Tennessee and upon her retirement the Maxine A. Smith Center at Southwest Tennessee Community College was named in her honor. Along with former President Bill Clinton, Smith was the recipient of the prestigious Freedom Award presented by the National Civil Rights Museum in 2003. She was also awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters from her alma mater, Spelman College in 2004 and the Doctor of Laws was conferred by LeMoyne-Owen College; and

WHEREAS, Smith served for ten years as Chairperson of the NAACP National Education Committee and was honored at the Daisy Bates Education Summit with a national NAACP scholarship named in her honor.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP celebrates the life of Maxine A. Smith who passed on April 26, 2013, at the age of 83 years, a champion for civil rights and the free and unfettered access to quality education for all African Americans; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP continues its mission to ensure that a quality education is available to all.