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Jessie Carney Smith

Librarian, author and educator Jessie Carney Smith was born on September 24, 1930 in Greensboro, North Carolina to James Ampler and Vesona Bigelow Carney. Smith attended Mount Zion Elementary School and James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro. She graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with her B.S. degree in home economics in 1950. Smith pursued graduate studies at Cornell University and then received her M.A. degree in child development from Michigan State University in 1956, and her M.A.L.S. degree from the George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in 1957.

In 1957, Smith was hired as an instructor and head library cataloger at Tennessee State University. In 1960, she enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Illinois, and worked as a teaching assistant from 1961 to 1963. Smith then returned to Tennessee State University, where she was hired as an assistant professor and coordinator of library services. In 1964, she became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. degree in library science from the University of Illinois; and, in 1965, she was hired as a professor of library science and the university librarian of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. She was named the William and Camille Cosby Professor in the Humanities at Fisk University in 1992, and appointed dean of the library in 2010. Smith has also lectured part-time at Alabama A&M University, the University of Tennessee and the George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.

Smith served as consultant to the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, the U.S. Office of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and the American Library Association. She directed three institutional self-studies at Fisk University, resulting in the institution’s reaffirmation of accreditation by SACS. In addition, Smith has directed multiple projects funded by NEH and the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and served on several Fisk University campus committees.

Smith has published numerous research guides and reference books. In 1991, she released the award winning, Notable Black American Women, and went on to publish Notable African American Men in 1999. Her other books include Black Heroes of the Twentieth Century, Freedom Facts and Firsts: 400 Years of the African American Civil Rights Experience, and Black Firsts: 4000 Groundbreaking and Pioneering Historical Events, among others.

Smith received the Martin Luther King Black Authors Award in 1982 and the National Women's Book Association Award in 1992. She received the Candace Award for excellence in education, Sage magazine's Ann J. Cooper Award, and distinguished alumni awards from both the Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and the University of Illinois. She was named the Academic/Research Librarian of the Year from the Association of College and Research Libraries in 1985; and, in 1997, received the key to the city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In 2011, Smith was awarded the Global Heritage Award from the Global Education Center and the Outstanding Achievement in Higher Education Award from the Greater Nashville Alliance of Black School Educators.

Jessie Carney Smith was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 22, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.011

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/22/2014

Last Name

Smith

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Carney

Schools

Mt. Zion Elementary

James B. Dudley High School

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

Cornell University

Michigan State University

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

First Name

Jessie

Birth City, State, Country

Greensboro

HM ID

CAR28

State

North Carolina

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

9/24/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Nashville

Country

United States

Short Description

Librarian, author, and educator Jessie Carney Smith (1930 - ) is the dean of Fisk University’s library and the William and Camille Cosby Professor in the Humanities. She has worked at Fisk University since 1965, and has published numerous research guides and reference books, including the award-winning Notable Black American Women. In addition, Smith was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. degree in library science from the University of Illinois.

Employment

Fisk University

Tennessee State University

Peabody College of Vanderbilt University

University of Tennessee

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Henry Ponder

Henry Ponder was born on March 28, 1928 in Wewoka, Oklahoma. He was the eleventh of fourteen children born to Frank and Lillie Mae Ponder. Ponder excelled in academics and participated in his high school student council as the class president. After hearing a speech by Mary McCloud Bethune, Ponder was inspired to become a university president. He graduated from Douglas High School in 1946 and attended Langston University, where he pledged the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and received his B.S. degree in agriculture in 1951.

Ponder served two years in the United States Army during the Korean War. When he returned to civilian life, he worked as a research assistant at Oklahoma State University. He then earned his M.A. degree from Oklahoma State University and his Ph.D. from Ohio State University.

Ponder served as both Chair and Assistant Professor for the Department of Agriculture and Business at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia. He also served as the Chairman of the Department of Business and Economics of Fort Valley State College in Fort Valley, Georgia. Additionally, Ponder was the Vice President of Alabama A&M University in Normal, Alabama. In 1973, he fulfilled his dream by becoming President of Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. After an eleven year tenure, he became the President of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee for twelve years. While at Fisk, Ponder was honored as one of the “100 Most Effective College Presidents in the United States.”

In 1996, Ponder left Fisk University to serve as the CEO and president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. In early 2002, he became President of Talladega College in Alabama. While in his presidency, Ponder helped retain the 160-year-old institution’s accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Ponder currently lives on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina with his wife of fifty-five years, Eunice. They have two adult daughters.

Ponder was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 29, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.033

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/29/2007

Last Name

Ponder

Maker Category
Schools

Oklahoma State University

Johnson Grove School

Langston University

Douglas High School

The Oklahoma State University for Agriculture and the Applied Science

The Ohio State University

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Henry

Birth City, State, Country

Wewoka

HM ID

PON02

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

All

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

No

Favorite Season

Birthday

Speaker Bureau Notes

Preferred Audience: All

State

Oklahoma

Favorite Vacation Destination

Senegal, West Africa

Favorite Quote

Take Your Time, Not Your Life.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

South Carolina

Birth Date

3/28/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Hilton Head Island

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Oysters on the Half Shell

Short Description

University president Henry Ponder (1928 - ) served as Vice President of Alabama A&M University, President of Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, President of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and President of Talladega College in Alabama.

Employment

The State Training School for Incorrigible Negro Boys

Tinker Air Force Base

Virginia State University

Fort Valley State College (Ga.)

Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College

Benedict College

Fisk University

National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO)

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Henry Ponder's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Henry Ponder lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Henry Ponder describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Henry Ponder describes his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Henry Ponder describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Henry Ponder recalls his childhood in a large family

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Henry Ponder remembers lessons from his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Henry Ponder describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Henry Ponder describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Henry Ponder describes his siblings, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Henry Ponder describes his brother, Tinch Ponder

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Henry Ponder describes his sister, Katheryn Ponder Brown

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Henry Ponder describes his brother, Paul Harding Ponder

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Henry Ponder describes his sisters, Mayme Ponder Jackson

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Henry Ponder describes his remaining siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Henry Ponder describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Henry Ponder describes his chores on the farm

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Henry Ponder describes his childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Henry Ponder recalls being responsible for the farm from an early age

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Henry Ponder remembers growing up during the Great Depression

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Henry Ponder describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Henry Ponder describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Henry Ponder recalls the Johnson Grove School in Wewoka, Oklahoma

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Henry Ponder remembers Douglas High School in Wewoka, Oklahoma

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Henry Ponder recalls hearing Mary McLeod Bethune speak

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Henry Ponder describes his extracurricular activities in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Henry Ponder describes his childhood entertainment

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Henry Ponder recalls how his family avoided the effects of the Dust Bowl

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Henry Ponder describes his decision to attend college, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Henry Ponder describes his decision to attend college, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Henry Ponder describes his first year at Oklahoma's Langston University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Henry Ponder recalls meeting his wife at Langston University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Henry Ponder remembers his academic success at Langston University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Henry Ponder describes his professors at Langston University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Henry Ponder talks about the role of college fraternities and sororities

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Henry Ponder talks about how fraternities changed in his lifetime

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Henry Ponder describes fraternities' community involvement

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Henry Ponder remembers his graduation from Langston University

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Henry Ponder recalls being drafted to serve in the Korean War, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Henry Ponder recalls being drafted to serve in the Korean War, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Henry Ponder remembers his promotion to sergeant in the U.S. Army

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Henry Ponder describes his experiences in Korea and Japan

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Henry Ponder recalls his graduate studies at The Oklahoma State University for Agriculture and Applied Science

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Henry Ponder remembers joining the faculty of Virginia State University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Henry Ponder recalls earning a Ph.D. degree at The Ohio State University for Agriculture and Applied Science

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Henry Ponder remembers the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Henry Ponder talks about voting rights and segregation in Oklahoma

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Henry Ponder remembers segregation in Virginia and Oklahoma

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Henry Ponder remembers the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Henry Ponder recalls the reaction of Virginians to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's death

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Henry Ponder describes his daughters' births

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Henry Ponder remembers moving to Fort Valley, Georgia, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Henry Ponder remembers moving to Fort Valley, Georgia, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Henry Ponder describes his civil rights activism in Fort Valley, Georgia, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Henry Ponder describes his civil rights activism in Fort Valley, Georgia, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Henry Ponder describes his experience at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University in Huntsville

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Henry Ponder recalls the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Henry Ponder recalls the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Henry Ponder describes how he became the president of Saint Paul's College in Lawrenceville, Virginia

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Henry Ponder recalls his decision to reject the presidency of Saint Paul's College

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Henry Ponder remembers his presidency of Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Henry Ponder talks about expanding the academic programs at Benedict College

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Henry Ponder recalls his decision to become president of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Henry Ponder talks about achieving his goal of becoming a college president

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Henry Ponder recalls his presidency of the National Association for Equal Opportunity and Higher Education

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Henry Ponder describes organizational involvement

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Henry Ponder describes his work as a consultant in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Henry Ponder describes his presidency of Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Henry Ponder describes his involvement in the church

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Henry Ponder remembers receiving his first honorary degree

Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Henry Ponder talks about his retirement in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Henry Ponder talks about his older daughter, Cheryl Ponder

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Henry Ponder talks about his daughters' educations and careers

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Henry Ponder describes his marriage to Eunice Ponder

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Henry Ponder reflects upon his life

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Henry Ponder describes his message to future generations

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Henry Ponder describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Henry Ponder narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$7

DAStory

4$2

DATitle
Henry Ponder recalls hearing Mary McLeod Bethune speak
Henry Ponder remembers his presidency of Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina
Transcript
Had you thought about what you would like to become?$$Yes, I did. And this is another anecdotal story that I'll tell. When I was in the seventh grade [at Johnson Grove School, Wewoka, Oklahoma], I heard, and I don't know how I heard this, because I didn't read it in the newspaper, that's my point. And we didn't have television, and I know it wasn't on the radio. So, I heard it, that Mary McLeod Bethune was speaking in Wewoka [Oklahoma] at a Methodist church one night. And I said, "I'm going to go hear her." Now during this time--let me back up a little and say that during this time, the greatest person in the African American community, when I was in the seventh grade, was a college president. I mean that was something that nobody thought you could ever become. It was like you're flying to the moon now. But this was a college president, and I'm four miles in the country, and I walked four miles into town to hear her speak. And my mother [Lillie Mae Edwards Ponder] let me go, she thought--and again, I think about all these things and say that my mother even knew how important it was for me to hear this person speak, because it might do something for me. I mean she never told me this, but now as adult, that's all I can make of it. And I walked in and listened to Miss Bethune speak. She had on a mink coat, I remember that. And apparently, it was fall, or chilly, and the church wasn't heated apparently, because she didn't take her coat off. All of this is in retrospect now, I'm guessing. And I listened to her speak, and goodness, I was so impressed with this woman. She was just outstanding, she was a dynamo. And then I walked four miles back home from that. And in that trip from that church to home, as a seventh grader, I said "I'm going to be a college president." So, Miss Bethune was my role model. And now let me just hasten to say, when I made that decision, I had enough realization to know what it took. If you're going to be a college president, first of all you've got to finish the eighth grade. I mean, these are things that just fell into place. Then you've got to go to high school. You got to graduate from high school, then you got to go college. You got to graduate from college, and then you've got to go to graduate school, you know, all these things. As I progressed, I realized that all these things had to be done. And that thought is the thing that drove me to do the education that I have been fortunate enough to get.$Then a few years later in '73 [1973], I was offered a job as president of Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, and we took that. And that was a good experience, a very good experience. We had all the things that we wanted, and we were able to do some things to make sure that the college grew. We increased the endowment, added some new programs, increased the enrollment, and increased the number of Ph.D.'s on the faculty. We did all the things that we should do. We raised money; we were able to raise quite a bit of money, and we left the place with about $13 million in the endowment. So--$$The endowment was very--well, let's talk about Benedict College. Because historically it was a college that was established for recently emancipated African Americans. Is that right?$$That's correct.$$So, how did you feel about that part of the history of the school?$$Well, I took pride in that part of the history. It was, it was started by the, the first president was Henry Tisdale [sic. Timothy L. Dodge]. And a lady from Boston [Massachusetts] gave the money to buy the land to set up the first school, to set up the first building for the recently emancipated African Americans. And I felt very good about this, and felt that the school needed to stay true to that heritage, rather than trying to hang out its shingle as educating the elite. Rather than that, we ought to make sure that we try to educate those youngsters that have difficulty getting into colleges and universities on a general basis. So in other words, I took the position that if I had a choice--if I didn't have but five positions left in my freshman class, and had a choice between five students who had the highest GPA [grade point average] possible, or students who just barely had a GPA for admission--I would take the five on the lower end, because those on the upper end could always go someplace else if they wanted to, and those on the lower end couldn't. So, I took that position. I also took the position that we hang our shingle out as an open admissions college. And an open admissions college means that you accept students where they are, and proceed to move them to where they ought to be at graduation, so let's stay true to that image rather than trying to compete for the high scoring students. And I also reasoned that if we tried to compete with Harvard [Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts], we can't do that. Harvard knows how to educate smart people, they know how to do that. If we tried to compete with them on that, we'd lose every time. But Harvard does not know how to educate youngsters who need to be motivated. We know how to do that. Let us continue to do that, and let Harvard continue to do what they're doing. If we do that, then there will always be a place for a Benedict College.