KSBA eNews Service, March 26, 2013
John Smith, first minority president of KSBA, remembered; served 34 years on Henry County board
The first African-American elected president of Kentucky’s largest organization of elected officials. The first recipient of the Kentucky PTA’s Warren Proudfoot Outstanding School Board Member Award. Honored by the Henry County Chamber of Commerce with the Patrick Henry Award for contributions to the community.
But if you asked John W. Smith, Jr. the personal experience that he cherished most – outside those involving his immediate family – he would talk about seeing the faces and shaking the hands of Henry County High School graduates over his 32 years on the school board.
Smith, president of KSBA from 1997 – 1999, died Monday at age 83 after a lengthy illness. Funeral arrangements were still pending as of this morning. He is survived by his wife, Henrietta, and one daughter, Pam, and three grandchildren.
A graduate of Lincoln Institute High School and Sullivan College, Smith was a charter member of the Henry County Foundation for Education Excellence. He served 14 years on the KSBA Board of Directors as regional chairperson, director-at-large and in all three officer posts. He was appointed to terms on the Appalachia Education Laboratory board, the State Advisory Committee for Education, the State Board for Proprietary Education and the board of the Kentucky Association for Academic Competition. He was a longtime member of the Eminence Rotary Club and the Henry County Optimist Club.
In a 2010 article in the Eminence Henry County Local, Smith’s contributions were remembered as the auditorium at Henry County High School was named in his honor.
Smith began his service to education when he was elected with the Henry County Public Schools’ board in 1976.
Board member Roy Winchester was superintendent when Smith was elected.
One of the accomplishments he said he and John Smith were proudest of was getting all the teachers and students inside one building at Henry County High School.
Winchester said the need for portable classrooms began in the 1950s as consolidation grew.
Students were scattered between the school and six portables by the time renovations began.
“Getting the high school up into modern times was real important to us,” he said.
Winchester, who became emotional while discussing Smith, said Smith also was a real champion for the students of Henry County. “I’m going to miss him terribly,” he said. “He always worked for the students and worked from the heart.”
Smith served 34 years before resigning in 2010 after suffering a stroke in June 2009. He received care and rehabilitation at The Richwood in La Grange.
HCPS Superintendent Tim Abrams said Smith’s passion for Henry County students was remarkable. “Because of segregation, he wasn’t allowed to attend Henry County Public Schools,” he said, “but he’s been putting students through those same schools all his life.”
Abrams said one of Smith’s great strengths was not focusing on one area. “He was strong on academics, making kids feel welcome and safe, and extra-curricular activities from athletics to academic team,” he said. “He had a lot of great ideas.”