William L. Smith papers
Scope and Content note
This collection contains speeches, published articles, unpublished manuscripts, professional journals, books, photographs, scrap books, brochures, reports, clippings, event programs, VHS tapes, and a yearbook. The material dates from 1946-2008, but the material predominately dates from 1970-1985. These are the speeches, published writings, resources, and other material of William L. Smith from his time working at the U.S. Office of Education and U.S. Department of Education. Smith served as director of Teacher Corps, U.S. Commissioner of Education, and in many other senior posts. The material reflects a variety of topics, including multiculturalism in education, teacher education, federal education policies, and education reform. The collection was donated by Smith's widow in 2009.
- Creation: 1946-2008
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1970 - 1985
- Smith, William Lee (Person)
Conditions Governing Access note
This collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use note
Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.
William L. "Bill" Smith (1929-2008) was an education leader, teacher, reformer, and author who held many top-echelon posts at the U.S. Department of Education and its predecessor the U.S. Office of Education for 37 years.
Smith was born on January 3, 1929 in Boston, Massachusetts. He attended Jefferson School in Jamaica Plains, the Asa Grade School, the C.C. Perkins School, Julia Ward Howe Elementary School, the Tyler School, and the Abraham Lincoln School. Smith Sr. enrolled his son in the Boston Technical High School after William's mother died and William moved into the Charles Hayden Goodwill Inn for Boys in the South End of Boston. William attended Claflin College (Orangeburg, SC) and then Wiley College (Marshal, TX) where he received a presidential and music scholarship. He played in the marching band and joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1949. He returned to Boston and was awarded a fellowship at Boston University. In 1950, he enrolled in the U.S. Army and was sent to Korea. He was among the first African Americans to serve in and thus integrate the army's First Cavalry Division. Smith earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart in Korea. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion Intelligence Section and he was eventually promoted to the rank of master sergeant and taught military intelligence. He was honorably discharged in 1953. Smith earned a Master's degree from the Massachusetts State Teachers College (now UMass Boston) in 1955. He married Mable Lucille Madison of Colfax, Iowa and they moved to Cleveland, Ohio. He joined the Cleveland Pubic Schools as a history teacher at the East Technical High School. Smith became an outdoor track coach and a guidance counselor. In 1965 Smith was hired as principal of Patrick Henry Junior High School, which was a struggling inner city school. He began to make changes and even kept the school open until 9:30 pm. Patrick Henry became the best junior high school in Cleveland. His success there propelled him into a national spotlight and he served on the President's National Advisory Council on Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Smith began work on a Ph.D. at Case Western Reserve University in 1958, but he did not finish it until 1970. He left Patrick Henry and served as executive director of the Program for Action by Citizens in Education (PACE).
Smith moved to the Washington, DC area in 1969 and began work at the Office of Education. He worked under Associate Commissioner Don Davies in the Bureau of Education and Personnel Development. From 1971 to 1979, Smith directed Teacher Corps. He was named U.S. Commissioner of Education of the U.S. Office of Education in 1979. He was the only civil service employee to come up through the ranks to become commissioner, he was the first and only African American education commissioner, and he was the very last education commissioner. The Office of Education became the Department of Education in 1980 and Smith continued to hold prominent positions until his retirement in 2006.
In 1999 Smith was inducted into the National Alliance of Black School Educator's Hall of Fame. He received six honorary degrees and several presidential recognitions, including Senior Executive Service Charter Member (1979) and Presidential Rank Award (1981, 1990, and 1994). Smith published many articles in a wide variety of journals and books. Smith was interviewed by the HistoryMakers on September 9, 2003.
Bill Smith passed away on February 29, 2008 at Holy Cross Hospital, Silver Springs, MD. He was survived by wife Audrey, their children, Warren Smith; Denise Smith Withers; Kraig Boone; Kay Boone, and five grandchildren. Sources: Beverly E. Coleman, "William L. (Bill) Smith, 'Mr. Commissioner'" 1982 Afro-American History Kit, The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, Inc., 1982; "Bill Smith: A Leader and a Legend," Insider ED, Vol. XIX, No. 6, June/July 2006; and William L. Smith, "Professional Development and School Administration: A Collection of Articles," 2000.
6.25 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
This collection contains speeches, articles, professional journals, books, photographs, scrap books, reports, and other material. The material dates from 1946-2008, but the material predominately dates from 1970-1985. These are the speeches, published writings, resources, and other material of William L. Smith. William "Bill" Smith was an education leader, teacher, reformer, and author who held many top-echelon posts at the U.S. Department of Education and its predecessor the U.S. Office of Education for 37 years. Smith published many articles in a wide variety of journals and books. The material reflects a variety of topics, including multiculturalism in education, teacher education, federal education policies, and education reform.
Organized into three series: Writings of William Smith, Commemorative material, and Educational resources.
Materials may be stored off-site, and may require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
Gift of Audrey Smith, 12/22/2008, (2008.058)
- Guide to the William L. Smith papers1946-2008
- University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English (eng)