This week, Daniel R. Smith, 90, passed away in Washington. In his obituary, The Washington Post noted that he was one of the few living descendants of Black Americans who had been held as slaves.
Who Was Daniel Smith?
Abram “A.B.” Smith, the father of Mr. Smith, was born a slave during the American Civil War on a plantation in Massies Mill, Virginia. He endured hardships there as “a kid laborer” at least until the time of the 1870 census before relocating to Connecticut in his 20s.
He married decades younger white Scotch-Irish and Cherokee woman named Clara (Wheeler) Smith. Daniel was born in 1932 while his father was 70 years old and employed as a janitor at a clock factory in Winsted, Connecticut. Daniel was the fifth of the couple’s six children.
When Daniel was just five years old, he would slip out of bed after dinner to hear his father tell his older brothers about the “whipping and crying post,” lynchings committed in the name of racial dread, and the ruthless violence used by slave owners to abuse their captives.
He began performing CPR on a young woman who had been recovered from a reservoir by another swimmer two years later while he was employed at a YMCA camp. When a police officer shouted at him to halt and informed him that she had already passed away, he had discovered her pulse and was preparing to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Mr. Smith stepped away from the white woman when he understood what the officer was getting at. He told the Post, “He didn’t want me to place my lips on her, and she died. Also, read about Patrick Swayze Death
Following his graduation from Springfield College in 1960, Mr. Smith worked as a psychiatric social worker before enrolling at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama for veterinary school.
He participated in the Civil Rights Movement and marched in Selma and Washington. He was in charge of an anti-poverty program in Lowndes County in 1963 when the fire destroyed the church office where he worked. Soon after, he was pursued by a car full of white nationalists down a pitch-black country road until he drove into a gas station.
Weeks before Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, Mr. Smith relocated to Washington, where he raised two children with Sandra Hawkins, his first wife while working for the Health Resources and Service Administration to combat poverty.
After retiring in 1994, he volunteered at Washington National Cathedral and escorted presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush while serving as head usher. In 2006, following the dissolution of his first marriage, he wed Loretta Neumann in the cathedral.
Daniel Smith Death
Daniel Smith, a civil rights advocate and one of the last living descendants of a Black American slave, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 90.
According to The Washington Post, Smith’s wife since 2006, Loretta Neumann, claimed that her husband had both cancer and congestive heart failure.
When Neumann passed away at a hospice in Washington, he informed CBS News that his son Rob and daughter April were by his side.
According to CBS News and the Post, Daniel was co-writing a biography called Son of a Slave: A Black Man’s Journey in White America with novelist Sana Butler at the time of his death. Also, read about Tom Petty Death
Daniel Smith enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school and served as a medic during the Korean War. He saved a truck driver from a flooded river in Winsted in 1955 following Hurricane Diane, which took 87 lives.
In 2020, Mr. Smith expressed worry for the nation’s future, telling The Washington Post that it appeared as though the 157 years since his father was born into slavery were “nearly to the point where it may happen again.”
Daniel, according to Butler, “acted as a reminder that it’s difficult” to act as if the history of slavery in the United States is irrelevant today, the Post reported.
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