Robert H. Smith has seen a lot in the near century he’s been alive. A veteran of the US Army and longtime educator at several Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Smith stood in line during the early voting period in Mississippi to cast his ballot.
Smith said of this election, “I lived through the whole process of gaining the ballot, so being able to participate was satisfying for me.”
He told CNN, “It was very pleasing to see so many people out to vote,” adding, “And to be a part of the excitement that was going on around me.”
His life began on a plantation in the small northern Louisiana town of Rayville. Smith’s father was a sharecropper on the plantation, and eventually became a minister.
Smith was the first person in his family to finish high school, going on to attend college. His educational pursuits were paused as he was drafted into the US Army at the start of the Second World War.
He returned to school, married and completed his degree at what is now the Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Smith earned master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was hired as an educator at Florida A&M University where he remained with his wife and three children for 20 years.
Smith’s career continued in Mississippi after he became a dean at Jackson State University and Tougaloo College. He eventually retired in 2002, after he had turned 80 years old.
Smith joins the surge of Black voters over the age of 65 who came out to vote this year, all who have seen a lot in their life. Their continued participation in the election process underscores the legacy of carrying out the change they’ve witnessed in their lifetimes.
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