The People, Places, and the History of The Northern Neck of VA

APFK Season 1
APFK Season 1
Episode 4: Dr. Elton Smith

Dr. Elton Smith is the last Black principal of segregated Brookvale High School in Lancaster County, VA, who later became the first Black Superintendent of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Mrs. Mary Jackson, who is part of this interview, is Board President of the Julius Rosenwald Schools Foundation Northumberland County.


“To the members of the graduating class of “69”, I wish to congratulate you for having obtained this goal in your educational endeavors and I also wish to remind you that you are now beginning to search for knowledge that will help you in your pursuit for excellency.
I also wish to remind you that since the Birth of Civilization man has regarded knowledge as the path of righteousness and prosperity.  Philosophies of education have reflected spiritual values and material needs of the day. The foundation of our great Democracy rests on the conviction that all men are created equal and are entitled to equal opportunity for self-fulfillment. Our practical goals are derived from the understanding that democracy gains strength from well informed citizenry and is in serious peril when confronted with ignorance. We know, too, that the space age is highly technical and competitive.  To keep pace with a world that is in constant motion we must be fortified with the ability and courage to change. Change is the order of the day and if we are to move forward, we must be a part of this great order. However, with change comes responsibility. The world is calling for responsible citizens. As you leave Brookvale to join hands with its many graduates, I challenge you to seek a degree excellence which defies the mediocre, rejects that which is less than the very best, and ignore the route which is merely the popular one to follow – the line of least resistance. I further challenge you to believe in your self, knowing that you will be able to conquer your problems, believe in your fellow man knowing that he will be able to help you in your quest and above all believe in God as the Supreme and head of the Universe. With this faith you will march forward to greater heights.”
Dr. Elton Smith: First Black superintendent for the Commonwealth of Virginia, former principal for Brookvale High School

Show Notes

  • 9:20 The county did not provide all the funds for the things that we need.
  • 24:30 I would like to see blacks involved more in some of the business activities.
  • 30:03 He said, I'm going to retire and I'm not going to fool with this integration stuff.
  • 39:13 Booker T. Washington asked Rosenwald if he could get a loan to build some schools in Alabama and school houses for teachers.
  • 44:38 We traveled over 32 miles one way every day to get to the school 32 miles to get back home every single day.

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