Saturday, May 8, 2021

‘ I Remember When I Couldn’t Vote’: 99-year-old Mississippi Man Born on Plantation Casts Ballot

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Dr. Robert H. Smith Sr.

*A 99-year-old Mississippi man, born the son of a sharecropper on a plantation, is reminding all of us about the importance of exercising the right to vote.

Dr. Robert H. Smith Sr., of Jackson, Mississippi wore a face mask while dropping off his absentee ballot in October and donning his “I Voted” sticker.

“I remember when I couldn’t vote,” Smith told ABC News.

Smith lives in Hinds County, the most populous county in Mississippi. He said he stood in line for approximately 20 minutes alongside his son to submit his ballot in-person last month. He shared how proud the moment made him feel after overcoming a number of obstacles throughout his lifetime.

“Voting is an experience that every American citizen should have,” he said, adding, “we the people decide who’s going to be our leader.”

He was born on the Burks Plantation near Rayville, Louisiana, on May 9, 1921. His father was a sharecropper on the plantation but left to become a Baptist preacher who ministered at several local c churches in the region.

Upon graduating from high school, Smith was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II and was later promoted to the rank of chief warrant officer in the European Theater of Operations. He went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree at Southern University, master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Ph.D. from Florida State University.

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Dr. Robert H. Smith Sr., smiles alongside his wife, Grayce, in December of 1947 at a nightclub in Harlem, New York.

In 1943, during his first visit to New York City, he met a young nurse from the Harlem School of Nursing, Grayce Stewart, who would become his wife of 72 years. Stewart was “the prettiest girl” he’d ever laid eyes on, he said, to this day. Together, the couple has three children, Robert Jr., Rodney, and Rhonda – who took after her mother and became a registered nurse. They also have two grandchildren.

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Dr. Robert H. Smith Sr., 99, of Jackson, Miss., smiles alongside his wife, Grayce, and three children, Robert Jr., Rodney, and Rhonda.

Upon completion of his studies, Smith fulfilled his passion for teaching as a professor of sociology at Florida A&M University, dean of liberal studies at Jackson State University and dean of freshman studies at Tougaloo College – all three of which are historically black colleges and universities. Smith also became a Deacon Emeritus at New Hope Baptist Church Jackson, which he counts among his greatest achievements.

Read more about his incredible story below:

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