Guide to the Reverend George Walker Smith Papers

Finding Aid Authors: Amanda Lanthorne.
© Copyright 2008 Special Collections & University Archives. All rights reserved.
5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego, CA, 92182-8050
Phone: 619-594-6791

Guide to the Reverend George Walker Smith Papers 1950/2000

Special Collections & University Archives

Overview of the Collection

Collection Title: Reverend George Walker Smith Papers
Dates: 1950-2000
Identification: MS-0399
Creator: Smith, George Walker, 1929-
Physical Description: 23.30 linear ft
Language of Materials: English
Repository: Special Collections & University Archives
5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego, CA, 92182-8050
Phone: 619-594-6791
Other Information:
This collection was processed as part of the San Diego African American Archives Project, made possible by a grant from the President's Leadership Fund.

Biographical Information:

Reverend George Walker Smith was born in Hayneville, Alabama in 1929. He came from a family of sharecroppers on a large plantation. As a child, Smith had always loved to read and learn, but his local school was only in session for a few months out of the year, and there was no public high school for African-American students. The plantation owner, however, decided to send Smith to an African-American high school, run by a church, in another county. Smith was the valedictorian of his graduating class. He then received a scholarship for the Presbyterian College in Knoxville, TN. While at college, Smith met his wife, Irene. After graduating, he began teaching during the school year and taking classes for a master's in education at Alabama State University in the summer. Eventually, Smith became the vice principal of his school. During his teaching career, he witnessed several violent acts of racism and social injustice that persuaded him to leave Alabama.
He moved to Pittsburgh, PA to attend the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary School, and interned at a predominately affluent, white church for three years where he learned that "good people come in all colors." After seminary school, Smith left Pittsburgh to lead the congregation at the Golden Hill United Presbyterian Church in San Diego.
In 1956, when Smith arrived in San Diego, Golden Hill United Presbyterian Church was in the process of building a new facility in Allied Gardens, a predominately white suburb. While that church was under construction, Golden Hill United was, according to Smith, the only integrated church in San Diego. Some members, however, began an unsuccessful letter-writing campaign requesting a white reverend. Most of the white members left Smith's congregation after the completion of the Allied Gardens church, making Golden Hill a predominately black church. Smith preached the social gospel to encourage community activism. He became the first black member of the local Kiwanis Club. Later in his career, Smith was pastor at the Christ United Presbyterian Church.
During the late 1950's city leaders noticed Smith, and were amenable to his ideas. He began joining various municipal boards, and helped to form the Citizens Study Committee of the Board of Education in order to change the election policy of city-wide votes to county-wide votes, in an effort to diversify the San Diego Board of Education. The committee was successful, and the policy amended. In 1963, Smith ran for a Board of Education seat and won, making him the first elected African American on the School Board. He began his tenure by changing the ethnic composition of teachers, and although he was initially supportive of school integration, he later became disenchanted because of the still-prevalent social segregation. During Smith's sixteen years on the Board, he served as president four times. In 1967, he was the first African American to join the National School Board. He headed the United Negro College Fund for eighteen years, and in 1970, he participated in the White House Conference on Children and Youth.
In 1970, Smith established the Catfish Club, a public forum for politicians and the community to voice their opinions on political and social issues. He was the first chairman of the Citizens Advisory Review Board, which was set up to regulate police procedures. He formed the Coalition for Racial Equality.
After over forty-five years pastoring in San Diego, Smith retired in 2000. He and his wife have three children.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.

Corporate Name:

African American clergy -- California -- San Diego -- Biography -- Sources
Christ United Presbyterian Church
Christ United Presbyterian Church (San Diego, Calif.) -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
Golden Hill United Presbyterian Church
Golden Hill United Presbyterian Church (San Diego, Calif.) -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
United Presbyterian Church of North America -- Clergy -- California -- San Diego -- Biography -- Sou

Genre/Form of Material:

Organizational Records
Personal Papers

Geographic Name:

San Diego (Calif.) -- Church history -- 20th century -- Sources
San Diego (Calif.) -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century -- Sources

Personal Name:

Smith, George Walker
Smith, George Walker, 1929- -- Archives

Topical Term:

African American clergy--California--San Diego--Biography
African American educators
African American educators -- California -- San Diego -- Biography -- Sources
African American social reformers -- California -- San Diego -- Biography -- Sources
African Americans -- California -- San Diego
African Americans -- California -- San Diego -- Biography -- Sources
African Americans--California--San Diego

Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Use:

The copyright interests in some of these materials have been transferred to or belong to San Diego State University. The nature of historical archival and manuscript collections means that copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. Copyright resides with the creators of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. Requests for permission to publish must be submitted to the Head of Special Collections, San Diego State University, Library and Information Access. Permissions is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder(s), which must also be obtained in order to publish.  Materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials.

Conditions Governing Access:

This collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation:

Identification of item, folder title, box number, Reverend George Walker Smith Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Library and Information Access, San Diego State University.

Related Materials:

Leon Williams Papers (MS-0398)
Carlin Integration Case Records (MS-0029)
School Integration Task Force Records (MS-0234)
Alpha Pi Boulé Records (MS-0397)
Harold K. Brown Papers, 1956-2000 (MS-0442)

Arrangement of Materials:

I. Personal Files, 1954-2000
II. Scrapbooks, 1963-1970
III. Awards and Plaques, 1950-2000

Scope and Contents

The Reverend George Walker Smith Papers document Smith's ministerial career in San Diego at the Golden Hill United Presbyterian Church and Christ United Presbyterian Church, as well as his political, social, educational, and religious achievements.  The collection includes sermons, church announcements, correspondence, Board of Education scrapbooks, news clippings, accolades, plaques and certificates of achievement, Kiwanis Club Information, and newsletters.  The collection is divided into three series:  Personal Files, Scrapbooks, and Awards/Plaques.
The Personal Files, dating from 1954 to 2000, heavily document Smith's career in the church.  This series is arranged alphabetically and includes sermons, correspondence, Kiwanis Club information, Catfish Club information, newsletters, United Presbyterian General Assembly statements, and church announcements.  Smith's sermons make up the majority of this series.  These files also contain an interesting collection of letters from church members requesting a white reverend. There is little to no information regarding Smith's time on the Board of Education, and very little information documenting his Catfish Club activities.
The Scrapbooks series consists of four scrapbooks, arranged chronologically, three of which document Smith's Board of Education elections and appointments during the 1960's.  The fourth scrapbook documents Smith's 1970 election campaign for the fourth district county supervisor seat, which he lost, along with other miscellaneous achievements.  These scrapbooks contain mostly newspaper clippings and accolades, but very few pictures.
The Awards/Plaques (1950-2000) series document Smith's religious, social, educational, and political achievements, and contains certificates of achievement and plaques arranged chronologically.  Organizations such as the YMCA, Kiwanis Club, the NAACP, and the San Diego City Council awarded Smith several of these plaques and certificates.

Detailed List of Contents


Personal Files 1954-2000

Box 1, Folder 1

Campaign Brochures 1970

Box 1, Folder 2

Catfish Club 1988-2000

Box 1, Folder 3

Certificates of Baptism 1996, 2000

Box 1, Folder 4

Church Announcements/Events 1991-2000

Box 1, Folder 5

Church Information 1973-1999

Box 1, Folder 6

Correspondence 1980-2000

Box 1, Folder 7

Correspondence - Beck, Violet 1956

Box 1, Folder 8

Crafted Sermons - "Blame the Flame" 1976

Box 1, Folder 9

Culture Briefings Brochure 1998

Box 1, Folder 10

Demetrius DuBose Police Killing Petition 1999

Box 1, Folder 11

Eradication of Racial Conflict in America Proposal

Box 1, Folder 12

"Fifty San Diegans Who've Mattered," San Diego Magazine 50th Anniversary 1948-1998 10/1998

Box 1, Folder 13

Funeral Services 1993, 2000

Box 1, Folder 14

General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church - Policy Statements 1963

Box 1, Folder 15

"God Before the Beginning"

Box 1, Folder 16

Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome 1999-2000

Box 1, Folder 17


Box 1, Folder 18

Kiwanis Club 1962-1963

Box 1, Folder 19

Martin Luther King Bethel/Cup Service January 1998

Box 1, Folder 20

Neighbors Incorporated Board of Directors - Election of Officers 03/18/1998

Box 1, Folder 21

Newsletters 1998-2000

Box 1, Folder 22

Other Churches 1993-1995

Box 1, Folder 23

Pacific Coast Bank Liquidation - Notice of Hearing 1990

Box 1, Folder 24

Photo - Santa Claus

Box 2, Folder 1

San Diego Coalition for Equality

Box 2, Folder 2

Sermons 1960's

Box 2, Folder 3

Sermons 1970's

Box 2, Folder 4

Sermons 1980-1984

Box 2, Folder 5

Sermons 1985-1989

Box 2, Folder 6

Sermons 1990-1992

Box 2, Folder 7

Sermons 1993-1996

Box 2, Folder 8

Sermons 1997-2000

Box 2, Folder 9

Sermons (no date)

Box 3, Folder 1

Sermons (no date)

Box 3, Folder 2

Sermons (no date)

Box 3, Folder 3

Stewardship Sermon - Homiletics 721 Paper 1954

Box 3, Folder 4

Suggestions for Leaders Lessons

Box 3, Folder 5

Youth Advocacy/Innocent Addicts Humanitarian Awards Program 1999


Scrapbooks 1963-1970

Box 4

Board of Education Election Scrapbook 1963

Box 5

Board of Education Election Scrapbook 1960s

Box 6

Board of Education Election Scrapbook, 1963-1967

Box 6

County Supervisors Election Scrapbook, 1970


Awards/Plaques 1950-2000

Box 7, Folder 1

Awards and Certificates (no date)

Box 7, Folder 2

Awards and Certificates 1950-1969

Box 7, Folder 3

Awards and Certificates 1970-1979

Box 7, Folder 4

Awards and Certificates 1980-1989

Box 7, Folder 5

Awards and Certificates 1990-1999

Box 7, Folder 6

Awards and Certificates 2000

Box 8

Kappa Alpha Psi, 42nd Western Province Cup

Box 9, Folder 1

Three Plaques 1960s

Box 10, Folder 1

Two Plaques 1964-1965

Box 11, Folder 1

Name Plate and Four Plaques 1972-1979

Box 12, Folder 1

Two Plaques 1979, 1984

Box 13, Folder 1

Two Plaques 1974, 1979

Box 14

Plaque 1988

Box 15, Folder 1

Four Plaques 1992-1995

Box 16

Plaque 1995

Box 17, Folder 1

Two Plaques 2000

Box 18

Plaque 2000