Story and photos by Jan Osborn
Gary Cochran and the team from Serving God by Serving Others invited us to help with a cleanup in Hamilton Park. SGSO is a nonprofit organization dedicated to emergency disaster relief in the event of a natural or man-made disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods or earthquakes. The goal of SGSO is to be on site within 48 hours of the disaster to perform the immediate tasks required to stop further damage and return households back to normal as quickly as possible.
We arrived at the home of Curtis and Kelcy Smith in Hamilton Park and began to remove the debris from uprooted trees and torn-up houses as a result of the storm. It didn’t take long to realize that Kelcy, 90, and Curtis, 95, were well loved and admired by the residents of Hamilton Park. Kelcy and Curtis invited me into their home and it didn’t take long for us to realize why they are so special to their community.
Hamilton Park is a neighborhood in north Dallas, named for Dr. Richard T. Hamilton, a physician and black civic leader. Hamilton Park’s founding can be traced to two instances — in 1950, several black homes in south Dallas were bombed, and in 1953, a Dallas bond election okayed the demolition of housing in black neighborhoods so that Love Field airport could expand. This created a desperate need for black housing in the city, so home builders worked with the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce to stir up activism to get developments built.
In May 1949, Karl Hoblitzelle encouraged trustees of his charitable foundation to contribute to the cause. In 1953, the group donated $216,872.93 to the Dallas Citizens’ Interracial Association to purchase a 233 acre site for Hamilton Park. In addition, the group borrowed $423,619.99 from three Dallas banks to finance infrastructure.
The Smiths, known in Hamilton Park as a power couple, have been married for over 70 years. They were one of the first couples to build a house in 1955 from the ground up. The Smiths are longtime members of The Hamilton Park United Methodist Church and Mrs. Smith has been a Communion Board member since its inception. Mr. Smith was honored with the naming and dedication of the Church’s library in recognition of his leadership.
An advocate for the education rights of African-Americans within the Richardson ISD, Mr. Smith was appointed by a federal judge as the first chairman and organizer of RISD’s Bi-Racial Committee following the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. His work led to the establishment of a fully integrated Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet Elementary School, resulting in a planned integration at RISD’s middle and high schools. He continues to serve on this committee.
A WWII veteran of the U.S. Navy, Mr. Smith was the first African-American promoted to Seaman First Class. In 2015, he was chosen to join twelve WWII veterans in Washington, D.C. where he presented a wreath in the Pearl Harbor Day ceremony at the National World War II Memorial. Mr. Curtis Smith and Mrs. Kelcy Smith became the first African-Americans in management in their respective careers.
On February 7, 2017, the Commissioners Court of Dallas County, Texas, celebrated the Smiths for making a significant difference in their community to make Dallas Country a better place.
At Dallas Doing Good, we could not agree more!
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