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    In Memoriam: Maxine Smith

    Maxine Smith

    Maxine Smith

    All of us at the Hyde Family Foundations were saddened by the death of Maxine Smith on April 26, 2013.

    Maxine was a legendary champion of fair play and a relentless advocate working to make the American Dream accessible for every person. She was a history maker, a courageous crusader for equal rights, a firm believer in the power of quality education, a leader who changed the course of history, and a Memphis treasure.  

    But most of all, she was our friend. We cherished our opportunities over the years to work with her on so many issues of importance to our city.  

    Her campaign for equal justice and civil rights placed her on the front lines of momentous national events, and much of her work was carried out as executive secretary for the Memphis branch of the NAACP from a small office in a small building in a distressed neighborhood. During her 33 years there, she coordinated major movements that destroyed the walls of state-enforced, legal segregation.

    She had endured the hard experiences of a segregated South, graduated from an all-black high school and was rejected by a Memphis university based solely on her race. Later, in 1960, she would escort the first 13 African-American students to desegregate Memphis City Schools, and 11 years later, she would be elected as the first African-American member of the Memphis City Schools Board, on which she served for 24 years.

    Maxine received more than 160 awards in recognition of her life’s work, including the Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum. When Dr. King wrote his own eulogy, he asked that he be remembered for what he fought for and for whom he served, not for his awards. In that regard, Maxine – who walked with Dr. King – can be said to have worked to give voice to the voiceless, to give rights to the powerless, and to ensure that the U.S. Constitution applies to every citizen.

    Here, at Hyde Family Foundations, we will miss Maxine’s wise counsel, her grace, her optimistic outlook, and her sense of humor. But, the lessons that she taught us as a city are now part of the Memphis DNA, and because of it, we will continue to reach for a better future for every citizen in our city. 

    If you would like to make a gift to honor Maxine Smith’s legacy, the Community Foundation for a Greater Memphis is accepting donations to the Maxine A. Smith Scholarship Fund. Please contact them at (901)728-4600 or visit their website at cfgm.org