|Birth: ||Aug. 29, 1915|
East Feliciana Parish
|Death: ||Jan. 21, 2010|
Denver Post Obituary dated January 24, 2010
Dave Smith fought many battles in life, including one defending his country and another fighting racism.
The longtime Denver businessman, community leader and member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen died Thursday. He was 94.
Born in Clinton, LA., on Aug. 29, 1915, Smith moved to Denver in 1930 with his mother, Lucille Silliman Smith. One of his first jobs was as a curb hop at Pencol Drug Store when he was a student at Manual High School.
After graduating from Manual in 1933, Smith attended Arkansas State College in Jonesboro, Ark., where he played basketball. He later transferred to West Virginia State College, where he met his future wife of 68 years, Vivian L. Robinson.
Armed with a college degree, Smith returned to Denver, but finding a job was difficult in the midst of the Depression, so he returned to school and in 1940 earned a master's degree in economics from the University of Denver.
Smith moved back to West Virginia and worked on President Franklin D. Roosevelt's re-election campaign. When he applied for a job at the governor's office in Charleston, W. Va., the governor's assistant hired him as a janitor, but Smith convinced him that he could type and run office equipment and eventually landed a job as a messenger.
Smith went on to teach and coach at what were then referred to as "colored schools" in West Virginia.
Smith later taught at Lowry Air Base near Denver, but after a racial incident between him and a white soldier, Smith decided he would not tolerate being disrespected because of the color of his skin. He left Lowry to pursue other military options.
In 1944, Smith was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps and at the recommendation of a Lowry general, he entered Officer Candidate School and completed training in Miami Beach, Fla., before transferring to Tuskegee Army Airfield in Atlanta.
First Lt. Smith served with the Tuskegee 477th Medium bomber Group as an intelligence officer. In 1945, he was transferred to Freeman Field in Indiana and made history as one of the 101 black officers who where arrested after being denied entrance into an all-white officers' club.
"We were fighting two wars at the same time," said Smith's longtime friend and fellow Tuskegee airman Samuel Hunter.
Smith and Hunter joined the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Hubert L. "Hooks" Jones Chapter in Denver and Colorado Springs in 1973, according to officials.
"Dave was a true friend who would do anything for you," Hunter said.
In 2007, Smith was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for contributions made as a Tuskegee airman.
After World War II, Smith and his family settled in Denver. He operated a store for eight years, then followed in his mother's footsteps and went into real estate. In 1959 he opened Dave Smith Realty. Smith fought for fair housing laws and became known as a "block buster" because he sold homes in white neighborhoods to black families.
In 1963, Smith became the first black appraiser for the Denver assessor's office before being appointed to the Career Service Authority by Mayor Bill McNichols.
In 1982, Gov. Dick Lamm appointed Smith to the Colorado Real Estate Commission, making him the first black to serve in the capacity.
Smith is survived by his wife; two daughters, Sharon Daniels and Sylvia Jackson; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Park Hill United Methodist Church, 5209 Montview Blvd. Interment will be in Fort Logan National Cemetery, 3698 S. Sheridan Blvd.
(bio by: Barbara Elliott)
US ARMY AIR FORCES - WORLD WAR II
Fort Logan National Cemetery
Plot: Sect. 44, Site 164
Created by: International Wargraves ...
Record added: Jul 03, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 72572264