The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Vernon Smith

Share on Social Media

Information about Vernon Smith

Profile image of Vernon Smith

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Author
Magazine Reporter

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Salmon
Favorite Time of Year:
Christmas, Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Favorite Quote:
How's My Boys?

Birthplace

Born:
2/13/1946
Birth Location:
Natchez, Mississippi

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Author
Magazine Reporter

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Salmon
Favorite Time of Year:
Christmas, Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Favorite Quote:
How's My Boys?

Birthplace

Born:
2/13/1946
Birth Location:
Natchez
See how Vernon Smith is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Journalist and author Vern E. Smith was born Vernon Emile Smith on February 13, 1946, in Natchez, Mississippi, where he spent the majority of his youth. Smith attended San Francisco State University, where he was a member of the school’s Black Student Union and served as sports editor and columnist for the campus daily newspaper. Smith met his wife in 1967, graduated from San Francisco State University in 1969, and, soon after, attended the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

In the summer of 1969, Smith joined the staff of the Independent, Press-Telegram in Long Beach, California. Smith joined Newsweek as a correspondent in 1971 after being recruited by John L. Dotson Jr., the magazine's then Los Angeles bureau chief, the first African American to hold that title. Smith was assigned to the Detroit bureau where he learned from veteran writers Jim Jones and Jon Lowell. Smith won the Detroit Press Club Foundation’s annual magazine writing award for a Newsweek article entitled “Detroit’s Heroin Subculture,” which informed his 1974 novel The Jones Men, recommended by the The New York Times and re-published by W.W. Norton in 1998.

In 1973, Smith was transferred to Atlanta, where he covered Maynard Jackson’s campaign to become Atlanta’s first African American mayor and Hank Aaron’s ordeal as he broke Babe Ruth’s Major League Baseball home run record. While in the South, Smith wrote articles about several unsolved civil rights murders and covered the trials of the Klansmen convicted in the 1963 church bombings in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four little girls. In 1979, Smith became Newsweek’s Atlanta Bureau chief. In 1980, Smith covered the Atlanta Child Murders. As a reporter for Newsweek’s Special Projects Unit, Smith contributed to four cover stories that were later published as books, including “Brothers,” the true story of fellow black journalist Sylvester Monroe’s roots in Chicago’s housing projects, and “Charlie Company,” which was awarded the 1981 National Magazine Award. Smith also wrote about George Corley Wallace, the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, Strom Thurmond, and the Little Rock Nine. After covering the 1996 Summer Olympic games in Atlanta, Smith was named a Newsweek National Correspondent in 1997.

Smith wrote numerous articles for several publications including Ebony, Crisis, GEO, The Sunday Times of London, and TV Guide. Smith also contributed to My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience, published in May of 2004 as part of the Voices of Civil Rights Project.

See how Vernon Smith is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Vernon Smith's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith describes his maternal family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes his maternal grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes where his maternal grandparents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith remembers spending time with his maternal grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith describes his mother's childhood in Natchez, Mississippi
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith remembers his mother's gift for writing and the detailed letters she wrote him when he was a college student
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Vernon Smith talks briefly about his maternal aunts
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Vernon Smith describes how his parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Vernon Smith describes his parents' first house in Natchez, Mississippi during the Depression era
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith describes his childhood neighborhood in Natchez, Mississippi
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes College Heights, a subdivision for black families in Natchez, Mississippi
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith describes moving to College Heights in Natchez, Mississippi, and the community's demographics
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes his paternal family ancestry
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes his paternal grandfather's business selling coal and ice
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith describes his paternal grandmother and lists his paternal aunts and uncles
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith describes his paternal grandfather's personality
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith recalls his earliest childhood memories
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith remembers an incident that disqualified the myth of racial inferiority
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes the black professional community in Natchez, Mississippi and remembers the lynching of three African American residents
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about the emergence of a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter in Natchez, Mississippi
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about his relationship with the former president of the Britton and Koontz bank in Natchez, Mississippi
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith remembers police misconduct in Natchez, Mississippi
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith explains the history of Natchez, Mississippi settlers, and remembers his grandfather settling an altercation involving his uncle
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about racially blended families in Natchez, Mississippi
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith describes the development of his mistrust of government and the contradictions of white racism
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes his experience at Prince Street Elementary School in Natchez, Mississippi
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith describes his experience at Sadie V. Thompson High School in Natchez, Mississippi
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes the culture of education in the 1950s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about racial violence and police surveillance in Natchez, Mississippi
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about the murder of Sam O'Quinn in Centreville, Mississippi and the assassination attempt made on George Metcalfe, president of Natchez NAACP
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about his participation in a protest of the firebombing of a local grocery store
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith remembers discovering a neighborhood peddler had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Vernon Smith describes his early interest in writing
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Vernon Smith talks about relocating to San Francisco, California and being admitted to San Francisco State University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith talks about his uncle, Otis Smith, of the Otis Smith Orchestra
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes his experience at San Francisco State University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith lists influential figures in his journalism career including Leo Young and Lynn Ludlow of the San Francisco chronicle
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes his experience as a copy boy for the San Francisco Chronicle
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes his experience in the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at Columbia University, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith describes the influence of black journalist Joseph Strickland
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about starting his first full-time job at Long Beach Press-Telegram, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith talks about covering the death of journalist Ruben Salazar for Long Beach Press-Telegram
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Vernon Smith explains how he got to Newsweek, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Vernon Smith remembers turning down an earlier internship opportunity at Newsweek from Bill Flynn, the San Francisco bureau chief
  • Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Vernon Smith explains how he got to Newsweek, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Vernon Smith describes meeting his wife
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith describes his experience as a junior correspondent in the Newsweek magazine Detroit bureau
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes writing an article about Detroit, Michigan's heroin epidemic in 1971
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith explains how his first novel, 'The Jones Men,' was conceived
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes the recognition he received for his first novel, 'The Jones Men'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Hank Aaron's pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run record, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about relocating to the Newsweek bureau in Atlanta, Georgia in 1973
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Hank Aaron's pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run record, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith lists black journalists that influenced him including HistoryMakers Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Paul Delaney
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of the second session of Vernon Smith's interview
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about the reorganization of the Negro Student Association into a black student union at San Francisco State University
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about the onset of the Black Power Movement and the 1966 March Against Fear
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about a basketball injury and the organization of an athlete's strike at San Francisco State University
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes his experience in the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at Columbia University, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about starting his first full-time job at Long Beach Press-Telegram, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about the migration of African Americans back to the American South
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith describes contemporary race relations in Georgia, and talks about the close proximity between blacks and whites the American South
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith speculates on why Atlanta, Georgia is seen as the "Black Mecca"
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about Atlanta politics, including Maynard Jackson's mayoral campaign and HistoryMaker John Lewis' Voter Education Project
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Hank Aaron's pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run record, pt. 3
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about speculation around Babe Ruth's racial identity and Hank Aaron's history in the Negro Leagues
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about the reopening of the investigation of the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the Atlanta child murders
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith talks about HistoryMaker Lee P. Brown's involvement in the Atlanta child murders investigations
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about conspiracy theories surrounding the Atlanta child murders
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about collaboration between Georgia's black and white communities in an effort to resolve the Atlanta child murders
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes patterns in connection with the Atlanta child murders
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about the discovery of Wayne Williams, lead suspect in the Atlanta child murder investigation, pt. 1
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about the discovery of Wayne Williams, lead suspect in the Atlanta child murder investigation, pt. 2
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith describes the Atlanta child murder trial in 1982
  • Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith describes Wayne Williams' sentencing in the Atlanta child murder trial 0f 1982 and talks about the reopening of Williams' case in 2005
  • Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith talks about the formation of Newsweek's special projects unit and its first special report, 'Charlie Company: What Vietnam Did to Us'
  • Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about his contribution to Newsweek's special project, 'Brothers,' chronicling the lives of black men from the Robert Taylor Homes
  • Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about HistoryMaker Jesse L. Jackson's controversial anti-Semitic remarks
  • Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about Newsweek's cover story on Afro-centric curriculums
  • Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Spike Lee
  • Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about Spike Lee's influence
  • Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the Mariel boatlift, pt. 1
  • Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the Mariel boatlift, pt. 2
  • Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith talks about HistoryMaker Andrew Young's appointment as United States Ambassador to the United Nations in 1977
  • Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about HistoryMaker Andrew Young's meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization as UN Ambassador
  • Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about Jimmy Carter's presidency, including Carter's Playboy interview and relationship with Martin Luther "Daddy King," Sr.
  • Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Atlanta, Georgia's bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics
  • Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes the controversy surrounding the expansion of MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the murder of Alberta King, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s mother, in 1974
  • Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith describes covering James Earl Ray's escape from Brushy Mountain Prison
  • Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Vernon Smith talks about the King family's attitude toward James Earl Ray
  • Tape: 11 Story: 10 - Vernon Smith talks about two murders in his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi: Ben Chester White in 1966 and NAACP treasurer Wharlest Jackson in 1967