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Dr. Robert L. Smith

Professor and physician Dr. Robert L. Smith was born on December 20, 1936 in Terry, Mississippi to Willie B. Smith and Lillie Mae Smith. He received his B.A. degree in chemistry from Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi in 1957, and his M.D. degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1961.

Smith completed his clinical training at the West Side Medical Clinic of Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois and returned to Jackson, Mississippi and founded the Family Heath Center, now known as the Central Mississippi Health Services, Inc. In 1964, Smith worked with the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) to provide medical services for civil rights workers during the Freedom Summer in Jackson, Mississippi as its first Southern Medical Field Director. Smith later worked as an assistant clinical professor of family medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical School, where he participated in the development of the Family Medicine Program as a co-principal investigator with the National Research Program’s Arteriosclerotic Risks in Community Studies. Smith worked as an adjunct professor at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee and Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi as well as professor emeritus position in the department of community medicine at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. During his career, Smith also assisted in institutionalizing the pre-health program at Tougaloo College.

In 2011, part of Jackson Metro Parkway was renamed in honor of Dr. Robert L. Smith. In 2014, Smith received the Community Service Award from the Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State of Institutions of Higher Learning, and was also named Diversity Educator of the Year. In 2017, the American Medical Association presented Smith with its Medal of Valor Award for his civil rights work. In the same year, the Mississippi State Senate honored Smith for his community health work. Smith was a charter diplomat of the American Board of Family Physicians and a charter fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He was an active staff member of Mississippi Baptist Health Systems, St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital, and Central Mississippi Medical Center.

Dr. Robert L. Smith was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 13, 2017 and April 23, 2019.

Accession Number

A2017.222

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/13/2017

12/13/2017 |and| 4/23/2019

Last Name

Smith

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

L.

Occupation
Schools

Terry Grove School

Hinds County Agricultural High School

Tougaloo College

Howard University College of Medicine

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Terry

HM ID

SMI35

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans

Favorite Quote

Keep it simple.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Mississippi

Birth Date

12/20/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Jackson

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Collard Greens, Potatoes, Okra, Grits and Eggs

Short Description

Professor and physician Dr. Robert L. Smith (1936 - ) was the president of Central Mississippi Health Services, Inc. and the first Southern Medical Field Director for the Medical Committee for Human Rights.

Employment

Mississippi State Hospital

Cook County Hospital

Tougaloo College

Private Practice

Central Mississippi Health Services, Inc.

University of Mississippi Medical Center

Tufts University

Jackson State University

St. Dominic's Hospital

Baptist Hospital

Merit Hospital System

Brown University School of Medicine

Favorite Color

Blue and Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. Robert L. Smith's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dr. Robert L. Smith lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dr. Robert L. Smith talks about his paternal grandfather's journey to Terry, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dr. Robert L. Smith describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dr. Robert L. Smith describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dr. Robert L. Smith describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dr. Robert L. Smith remembers his home in Terry, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dr. Robert L. Smith recalls his first piano

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dr. Robert L. Smith describes his father's work in the livestock trade

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dr. Robert L. Smith remembers the movie theaters in Jackson, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dr. Robert L. Smith describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Dr. Robert L. Smith recalls visiting his sister in Jackson, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dr. Robert L. Smith remembers the Terry Grove School in Terry, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dr. Robert L. Smith recalls his decision to stop studying piano

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dr. Robert L. Smith remembers his introduction to medicine

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dr. Robert L. Smith recalls contracting salmonella

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dr. Robert L. Smith describes the Utica Institute-Hinds County Agricultural High School, Colored in Utica, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dr. Robert L. Smith describes his parents' disciplinary methods

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dr. Robert L. Smith recalls his decision to attend Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dr. Robert L. Smith describes his experiences at Tougaloo College

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dr. Robert L. Smith remembers his influences at Tougaloo College

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dr. Robert L. Smith describes his decision to attend the Howard University College of Medicine

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dr. Robert L. Smith recalls his classmates at the Howard University College of Medicine

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dr. Robert L. Smith remembers the murder of Emmett Till

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dr. Robert L. Smith describes his residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dr. Robert L. Smith talks about his scholarship from the State of Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dr. Robert L. Smith recalls his return to Terry, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dr. Robert L. Smith recalls being surveilled by the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dr. Robert L. Smith remembers his decision to join the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dr. Robert L. Smith describes the State of Mississippi's attacks on Tougaloo College

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dr. Robert L. Smith remembers meeting Medgar Evers at Tougaloo College

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dr. Robert L. Smith describes his experiences of voter suppression in Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dr. Robert L. Smith remembers Medgar Evers' mass meetings in Jackson, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dr. Robert L. Smith remembers James Meredith's supporters

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dr. Robert L. Smith talks about the assassination of Medgar Evers

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dr. Robert L. Smith recalls the march after Medgar Evers' funeral

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dr. Robert L. Smith remembers picketing the American Medical Association, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Dr. Robert L. Smith remembers picketing the American Medical Association, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Dr. Robert L. Smith recalls founding the Medical Committee for Civil Rights

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

3$7

DATitle
Dr. Robert L. Smith remembers his introduction to medicine
Dr. Robert L. Smith recalls the march after Medgar Evers' funeral
Transcript
So you went from Dean Dixon the con- the conductor.$$(Laughter) To Dean Dixon to Charles Drew [Charles R. Drew].$$To Charles Drew.$$(Laughter) Yeah.$$What was it? You just liked the way they looked (laughter)?$$(Laughter) Well, but there was just the influence. Now what made me do that, I don't know. But it also made me a little different because some of my family and some of the students told me, "You don't know what you want to do." So, you know, that's kind of crazy, a country boy from Terry, Mississippi, in grade school [Terry Grove School] saying he want to be a physician. And (laughter) are you following me? And certainly there was no black physicians around. But I can't say that I wasn't exposed to a physician because it happened to have been two things. I had a white Jewish physician, who was a bird hunter who wanted to come down and hunt birds on my property's land. And my daddy [Joe Smith], being the bigot he was, he would ask my daddy to go out in the woods with him, and my daddy would say, "Well, take that boy," (laughter), you know. And he took me (laughter) and I would start asking him questions and we would start interacting with these different questions. And he, and then sometimes on these bird hunts he would bring me material. And he, when he retired, he gave a set of medical books.$$How old were you then?$$Oh, probably ten.$$So you were first exposed to medicine by a white Jewish doctor--$$Um-hm.$$--who was a bird hunter on your daddy's land (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Dad's pro- Daddy's property, yeah.$$How improbable is that?$$Well, it was (laughter) not that improbable, but that's the (laughter), that's the circumstances.$Tell me about the impact of Medgar's [Medgar Evers] assassination on you and your focus, what--just, just recall that.$$That, again--that, again, was just a horrific experience, culminating in demonstrations in the street, on Rose and later his funeral. And of course, I attended his funeral. And Mrs. Sanders [Thelma Sanders] and I and a group, not again thinking about the impact of our lives, joined that march and walked hand in hand from Rose Street, from Lynch Street [John R. Lynch Street] to Capitol Street. And I was, we was dared to come across Capitol Street. And thank god John Doar and his group parted the waters and let us proceed up through, up Capitol, up Farish Street to Collins and Frazier Funeral Home [sic. Frazier and Collins Funeral Home; Collins Funeral Home, Inc., Jackson, Mississippi].$$So you marched from Rose Street--$$I marched from Capitol, from--it was the Lynch Street Masonic Temple (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Temple.$$--all the way from up what then was Terry Road [Jackson Terry Road; Terry Road], all the way up to--down Pascagoula [Street] to Farish Street and from Farish Street--$$Across Capitol Street.$$Right. That's where the stop was. We weren't--$$So you're across Capitol Street. You didn't act--$$We weren't supposed to cross Capitol Street.$$To cross Capitol Street--$$That was--$$--but you did.$$We did.$$Thanks to John Doar, D-O-A-R, who had been appointed by--$$Appointed--$$--Kennedy [President John Fitzgerald Kennedy] to be his ombudsman for civil rights issues.$$Yes.$$That was--$$But we were supposed to be more down like dogs when we crossed, when we crossed.$$So what exactly did John Doar do?$$He came out from somewhere and--$$So did he have federal marshals with him or something?$$Had federal marshals with him.$$And the, and the new, and the city police--$$City police--$$--is just--$$--who was parked on, they was parked on rooftops and everything at Capitol and at Capitol and Farish to post a blocker, so we crossed Capitol.$$And they moved aside?$$Moved aside.$$Now explain to me why the white power structure was so adamant about you not marching on Capitol Street but merely crossing it en route to the funeral home [Frazier and Collins Funeral Home; Collins Funeral Home, Inc., Jackson, Mississippi]? What (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well--$$--what was, what was the thinking?$$It was, it was a symbol of, just a symbol of white oppression. We're in charge. That's the only thing that I can see, is a symbol of white oppression, that we were not supposed to be--we were not supposed to Capitol, cross Capitol Street. That was a great street.$$In the shadow of the old--$$It's--$$--state capitol.$$Shadow of the old state--a symbol of white power.