Remembering Civil Rights icon Maxine Smith - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Remembering Civil Rights icon Maxine Smith

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

If Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the drum major for justice, Georgia Maxine Smith was the drum majorette for justice.

The Civil Rights activist died Friday. She was 83.

MORE: Maxine Smith: A life of commitment
MORE: Civil rights activist Maxine Smith dies at age 83

Smith was more than her Ivy League education or her countless awards, more than even the battles she fought or the battles she won for the rights of others.

She was a mom to Vasco Smith III, a wife, sister, and aunt.

Below are the tributes FOX13 News received reflecting on the life of the Civil Rights icon.

"Maxine Smith was the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, having served on the National Board of the NAACP and as the Executive Secretary of the Memphis Branch of the NAACP where she coordinated the desegregation of everything in Memphis from schools to lunch counters to theater seating, and libraries, as well as public accommodations and facilities. Maxine Smith was an unstoppable force during the Civil Rights Movement, not only in Memphis but across America and she should be honored, emulated and revered alongside our nation's most influential leaders. On a personal level, she guided me as a mentor and a friend and I am humbled by her belief in me, which has given me strength for many years.  Maxine Smith embodied Dr. King's dream as she, too, could see over the Mountaintop. Please join me in remembering the powerful and important life Maxine Smith lived and keep her in your thoughts and prayers."

-   U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) of Memphis

Congressman Cohen also spoke on the House floor Friday in Washington, D.C. (


"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of former MCS Board Commissioner Maxine Smith. As a civil rights icon, Mrs. Smith dedicated her life to public service. She  was a proud graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and diligently served on the school board from 1972 to 1995. The impact she had on Memphis City Schools and the greater Memphis community will never be forgotten."

-   Memphis City Schools


"We are deeply saddened about the passing of civil rights legend, Maxine Smith," said John Moore, President & CEO, Greater Memphis Chamber. "Maxine has been a positive force for progress in Memphis for decades and she will remain an inspiration to us all."

-   Greater Memphis Chamber President & CEO, John Moore


"We lost a great crusader of civil rights today.  Dr. Maxine Smith committed her life to help people reach their fullest potential. Her dedication made an impact on countless persons not only here locally, but across the nation.   I join with many others in our community to offer my sympathy about her death.  May the inspiring words she lived by now bring comfort to her family and all of those who loved her."

-   Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr.


"Everyone at the Tennessee Board of Regents is deeply saddened by the loss of such an influential voice for civil rights. Many know Maxine Smith through her service to the NAACP, but don't realize the great impact she had on higher education. Throughout her 12 years (1994 - 2006) as a Regent, Maxine demonstrated her tireless devotion to ensuring equal opportunities in enrollment, employment and advancement within Tennessee's public higher education institutions.

"Though we mourn her loss, we are proud to celebrate her legacy and keep her spirit alive through the Maxine Smith Fellows program and by ensuring education remains accessible to the underrepresented and the economically disadvantaged. We also extend our condolences to her son, Vasco Smith III, and hope that the knowledge of the incredible impact his mother had on Tennessee and the enormous love and respect so many had for her brings some small measure of comfort."

-   Joint statement from Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan and Vice Chairman Greg Duckett

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