Dr. Roscoe Smith has notified the Southwest Archives of his mother’s 100th birthday which she observed on September 26, 2013. She will, however, have her birthday celebration on Saturday, October 12, 2013, from 3:00 to 5:00 PM in the Blevins and Washington Rooms of Hempstead Hall at the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope.
Dr. Roscoe Smith has notified the Southwest Archives of his mother’s 100th birthday which she observed on September 26, 2013. She will, however, have her birthday celebration on Saturday, October 12, 2013, from 3:00 to 5:00 PM in the Blevins and Washington Rooms of Hempstead Hall at the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope. About fifty family members from Arkansas, Texas, California, Washington, DC and Phoenix, Arizona, will attend. The celebration is also open to the public. Dr. Smith has honored his mother’s life with a biography of her career as a devoted wife and mother, quilter, cook, gardener and nurse. Here is the story of her 100 years in an era that saw many changes written by her son: “Lillie Mae (Thomas) Smith was born to Ed and Emma (Green) Thomas in Homer Louisiana, on September 26, 1913, with quilting in her blood. The family moved to Emerson, Arkansas for a short time and relocated to Hope, Arkansas in 1925. Lillie was 12 years old. After being wooed by George (Boots) Smith Jr., Lillie Mae Thomas exchanged marriage vows with him on November 4, 1933. Exactly nine months and two days later, the Reverend Robert Dean Smith was born and one year and seven months after R.D., Dr. Roscoe C. Smith was born at the University of Arkansas Branch Experiment Station where they lived since “Boots” was employed there. They remained married for 44 years until his death in 1977. All of their married years were spent in Hope, Arkansas. To this date, this union has produced six children, 13 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and ten great-great-grandchildren. Their six children: The Reverend Robert Dean (RD) Smith (deceased); Roscoe C. Smith, Ph.D.; Gwendolyn Doris (Smith) Elliby; George Smith III; James Edward Smith and Jimmie Charles Smith all completed high school in Hope, Arkansas. Four graduated from Yerger High School under the Segregated System and two graduated from Hope High School under the Desegregated System. All of their children received education beyond high school with RD receiving the highest calling and becoming a pastor in the Baptist Churches in El Reno, Oklahoma, and Bastrop, Texas, while serving in an administrative position with the Federal Prison System. In 1972, Roscoe completed his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), the highest academic degree attainable, from the University of Minnesota--a top 10 University, and graduated number one in his class Five generations of family members will be attending this birthday celebration. Listed below, are representatives of those five generations attending: First—Lillie Mae (Thomas) Smith born on 9/26/1913; Second---Roscoe C. Smith, Ph.D., born on 5/3/1936; Third---Robbie (Smith) Redmon, LPC, born on 9/16/1957; Fourth---Clayton Karl Redmon born on 2/25/1981; and Clayton Keith Redmon born on 7/18/2002. Boots didn’t want Lillie Mae to work because he wanted to take care of her and their children. However, Lillie Mae spent most of her time piecing quilts, embroidering and hand sewing. Her quilts were her pride and joy. According to Blues/Jazz man Jack Cannon, ‘For Lillie, quilting occupies the time and satisfies the mind.’ Jack Cannon knew that Lillie’s quilts were warm, very colorful and attractively designed, but no one is sure he knew what some of the family members felt. Some felt that her quilts were kind of magical. During those days the Smiths never had to go to the doctor. If someone got sick, they would go to bed and put one of those quilts over them and they would feel better. Around 1945, one of the Smith boys became ill and they couldn’t help him with all of their home remedies. He missed several days out of school which was unheard of in that family. The mother decided to call the doctor; therefore, she told her son to go take a good bath and put on some clean underclothes and get ready for bed. While he was taking his bath, Lillie was changing the linens and put one of her prize quilts on the bed. By the time he got in the bed, he went right on to sleep. They had to call and stop the doctor because he had recovered! His brother said that all he needed was a good bath. But we knew better: what he really needed was Lillie’s prize quilt! At an early age, Lillie learned to quilt from her mother. She would let Lillie work with her on her quilts to build up her confidence. However, Lillie worked only on the edges of the quilt. If she made mistakes, her mother could fix them without trouble. Lillie absorbed everything her mother taught her. Lillie was hired by the Hope Public Schools, Texarkana, Arkansas, Public Schools and the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council to teach students the art of quilt making under the directorship of Dr. Janis Rosenberg. According to Guest Curator Laurel Horton and Dr. Janis Rosenberg, Field Director under the National Endowment for the Arts, ‘The passion for quilt making is hard to articulate, for quilting is a complicated combination of skills, values, techniques, aesthetics, and knowledge gained through a tradition that spans generations across the nation.’ While creating quilts for all of her children, grandchildren and many of her great grandchildren, Lillie also made special quilts for ladies in the AKA and Delta sororities and for United States Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. One of her last creations, done at the age of 97, is a computer keyboard cover that she designed, pieced and quilted. No one, without her God-given gift to create without error, could match Lillie’s work. Through Roland L. Freeman, Dr. Electa Wiley and Dr. Jan Rosenberg, Lillie’s work has been displayed worldwide. Her work has been recognized through the National Endowment of the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Black Arts Festival and published in Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, London Sunday Times (England) Der Stern (Germany) and Paris – Match (France). Photographs of her work can be found in the Smithsonian Institute’s Center for Folk life.”