(Memphis) Inside the Jesse H. Turner Freedom House on Vance Avenue, there’s a celebration of the life of Maxine Smith.
Jesse Turner Jr. is a national board member of the chapter of the NAACP and chairman of Tri-State Bank. He has fond memories of Mrs. Smith.
“Fantastic organizer, down-to-earth person, moved from outside protests to more inside boardrooms, learned to adjust from a protest to leading a protest movement to influence and lead from within,” Turner said.
Friends of the Civil Rights icon and the organization gathered to remember Mrs. Smith, a freedom fighter and longtime executive secretary of the NAACP.
The theme was simply called “Maxine…Forever on the ase.”
Betsy Cannon said she didn’t know Mrs. Smith on a personal basis, but she wanted to pay her respects.
“I’m here because Maxine Smith was an icon for us and for not only African-Americans, but other people of color who had needs that were not met,” Cannon said.
Van Turner has known Mrs. Smith since he joined the NAACP’s youth organization. He’s now an NAACP Second Vice President and Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman.
“She’s always been a force of nature. I remember going to the NAACP conventions with her and she never lost the fire in her belly. She would be directing and be a general saying what needs to be done,” Van Turner said.
Mrs. Smith and others helped lead to the desegregation of Memphis public schools and other public facilities that had been denied to African-Americans.
“It showed her commitment to what she was trying to accomplish, which was opening doors and providing opportunities to African-Americans, women and to a lesser or greater extent whites in general. If you open the door to one group, you open them to all,” Jesse Turner Jr. said.
Maxine Smith helped open doors and forever changed the city of Memphis.
“There’s been a lot of progress, but there’s a still the need for the next Maxine Smith or more importantly thousands of Maxine Smiths,” Jesse Turner Jr. said.
Funeral services for Maxine Smith are scheduled for Saturday morning at 11 o’clock at Metropolitan Baptist Church on Walker Avenue.