Daniel Smith, an activist during the Civil Rights Movement and a son of a former slave, has passed away, reports CBS News.
His wife, Loretta Neumann confirmed that he passed away at a hospice center after suffering from cancer and congestive heart failure. In his last moments, he was surrounded by his family.
Born on March 11, 1932, in Winsted, Connecticut, Smith was the fifth of six children to his father Abram, a former slave in Virginia during the Civil War, and his second wife Clara, a white woman.
Smith said that his father would often recall stories about the dehumanizing realities of slavery.
“I remember hearing about two slaves who were chained together at the wrist and tried to run away,” Smith said, according to The Washington Post. "You could hear them screaming and crying at the whipping post."
After being drafted into the military during the Korean War, Smith wanted to serve in the Army’s K-9 Corps, but the unit didn’t accept Black soldiers. He would work as an Army medic instead.
When he returned home to Winsted in 1955, massive flooding, as a result of Hurricane Diane, killed nearly 100 people in the state of Connecticut. During the storm, Smith rescued a truck driver from the floodwaters, which was documented by John Hersey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who covered the storm for the New Yorker.
In 1960, Smith graduated from Springfield College of Massachusetts and went on to become a veterinary student at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Smith marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington and with other activists on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. He also led anti-poverty programs and literacy programs in rural Alabama.
In 1968, Smith began a career as a federal worker in Washington D.C, where he established a national training program for primary care physicians that still exists to this day.
After retiring from the government, he volunteered as an usher at the Washington National Cathedral where he escorted presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
In 2006, he wed Neumann, a longtime federal worker and an environmental activist.
Smith is survived by his wife Loretta; two children from his first marriage, April Smith Motaung of Columbia, Maryland, and Daniel “Rob” Smith Jr. of New York; and a granddaughter.
We at EBONY extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Daniel Smith.