School naming to honor pioneer St. Charles educator

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 18, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / November 18, 2000

LULING – An educator and community leader who devoted 44 years to publiceducation in St. Charles Parish will have the next new middle school builtnamed in his honor.

Raymond K. Smith, who died seven years ago at the age of 78, was one ofthe nine children of Joseph and Laura Smith of Hahnville, who launchedSmith’s Grocery in 1921.

The building itself, a Hahnville landmark, was built in 1823. Over the years ithad been a hotel and drug store as well as a grocery. The business was runfor many years after his father’s death by brother Leonard Smith until itclosed in 1994.

The sole surviving sibling, Leonard Smith, recalled his elder brother thisweek. He was also in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting of the St. CharlesParish School Board, where they decided to name that school, planned to bebuilt on recently-bought property next to Interstate 310 and near the schoolboard’s central office in Luling.

At the meeting, the board also approved on first reading a policy change sothat any facility to be named or renamed to honor a person would be adeceased person who “made a significant educational contribution to the St.

Charles Parish School System.”

Smith came up through the tiny, one-room schoolhouses for black children inpre-integration St. Charles Parish, finally completing eighth grade. Withrelatives in New Orleans, he was able to complete his education throughMcDonough 35 High School and Xavier University.

Back in St. Charles Parish Smith became principal of the Luling ColoredSchool in 1932, where he taught for many years, then the Hahnville ColoredSchool, which expanded as children grew up to become George WashingtonCarver High School. The facility is now Carver Elementary.

“They wanted to rename Carver Elementary for him, but he chose that namefor the school and he wouldn’t have wanted that,” his brother commented.

The school didn’t have a football team or a band, so he organized them. Theband needed music, so he composed it. The team didn’t have a coach, so hecoached, Smith’s brother recalled.

He was soon named the supervisor for Negro education, yet retained officesat Carver High until he was moved into the school board’s central office justin time to help smooth the path for racial desegregation in the public schools,which came in the mid-1960s.

In 1973 Smith was promoted to assistant superintendent, which position heretained until his retirement, and he earned a doctorate degree.

In lateryears he was also active in United Way, Rotary Club and the St. CharlesParish Hospital board.

In a history of the St. Charles Parish school system, Smith was rememberedthus: “Smith didn’t walk in marches, start demonstrations or make rousingspeeches about segregation. He took each stage in his life as he found it andworked for improvement.”

School Board member Alfred Green said Wednesday of Smith, “He came backhere. He could have gone anywhere, but he returned here to help the people.

Leonard Smith recalled his brother by saying, “He loved people and he lovedto help. He wanted only to help his community.”

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