SCC to Honor First Black Graduate Rev. Dr. William Amos Smith on March 25
The Southeastern Community College Alumni Association will honor SCC’s first black graduate, Rev. Dr. William Amos “Booker” Smith, Sr. at a luncheon on Friday, March 25 at noon in the Private Dining Room on SCC’s West Burlington campus. The public is invited to attend. The event will include remarks by SCC President Beverly Simone and the late honoree’s son, Rev. William Smith, II of St. Peters MO.
Smith’s accomplishments as a clergyman and educator are distinguished and lengthy.
Rev. Dr. Smith was born on May 3, 1911 in Hickman, KY to Rev. Mort and Luticia Smith. The family later moved to Burlington where Smith would become the first black graduate of Burlington High School in 1929. He was also the first black to serve on the debate team and to make the honor roll.
After graduating from high school, Smith enrolled in what was then Burlington Junior College, a predecessor institution of Southeastern Community College. Before graduating with his Associate of Arts degree in 1931, he earned letters in football and track, and led his class in scholarship.
He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Drake University where he played four sports and was a member of the debate team, speaking on radio station WOI. In recognition of his A minus average, he was invited into Kappa Delta Pi, a national educational fraternity. He went on to study Philosophy in England.
After graduating college, he returned to Burlington where he was ordained a minister in 1934 at Union Baptist Church. He was the first black minister ordained in Burlington.
Smith would later earn a Master of Arts Degree from the University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls and his Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees from Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, PA.
He served in the US Army as a chaplain for 15 years, winning four battle stars and the Bronze Star. He was recommended for the Legion of Merit before retiring as a Major.
During WW II, Smith was called to Paris by General Eisenhower to study and improve Negro troop morale. His recommendations were later put into practice.
He served as pastor at churches in Burlington, IA, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Florida.
Smith’s career also included faculty and administrative positions at Sioux Falls College, SD; Fort Valley State College, GA; Arkansas A&M Normal College, AK; Florida Normal and Industrial Memorial College, St. Augustine, FL; Florida A&M University, FL, and in St. Petersburg at Gibbs Junior College and the University of South Florida.
Smith served as Dean of Religious Education for the states of Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota; served as chairman of Ordination Council in these states.
He headed a state commission to improve the education of elementary teachers in Florida.
Smith died in St. Petersburg, FL in 1973 where he was pastor of the First Baptist Institutional Church.
He is survived by four sons, Rev. William A. Smith II, Martin A. Smith, John A. Smith, and Henry A. Smith, two daughters, Wilmetta Langston, and Theresa Smith Jennings, and a number of grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Two nieces, Evangeline Ray and Charlotte James, reside in Burlington.
The luncheon cost is $10 and begins and 12 Noon. The program is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. To make a reservation, contact Julie Glasgow at 319-208-5062 by Wednesday, March 22.
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