Jeanette Smith, Hattiesburg civil rights leader, dies at 78
Jun 07, 2018 | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — During her years as a civil rights leader, Jeanette Smith had bullets fired into her Mississippi home and hosted prominent guests including Martin Luther King Jr.

Funeral services are scheduled next week for Smith, who was 78 when she died May 27 in Atlanta. She and her husband, the late Dr. C.E. Smith, were instrumental in propelling the civil rights movement in Hattiesburg in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Both served as president of the Forrest County NAACP, an organization they joined in 1959.

"They were a big part of the civil rights movement in the '60s — with the boycotting, the marching and things of that nature before integration," her son, Brad Smith, told the Hattiesburg American.

The former Jeanette Musgrove grew up in Soso and moved to Hattiesburg in 1959 after she married one of the first black physicians to work at Forrest General Hospital.

Smith continued to serve the community long after her husband died in September 1986. She was the county NAACP president from 1977-79 and again from 1992-94. She was also elected in 1992 to serve one term on the Forrest County Election Commission.

Funeral services are scheduled Wednesday at Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Soso, followed by burial at Highland Cemetery in Hattiesburg.

Smith and her husband worked side by side throughout the civil rights era. Brad Smith became one of the first black students to integrate Hattiesburg public schools in 1965.

Brad Smith recalled national civil rights leaders such as King and Charles Evers staying at his family's home on Breland Avenue. Early one morning in February 1968, gunshots were fired into the house — giving the family a scare even though no one was hurt.

"One of those bullets came close to hitting my head," Brad Smith said.

Jeanette Smith served on the NAACP's education committee and worked to inform voters about issues and candidates. During her tenure as president, the Forrest County NAACP chapter reached some of its highest membership numbers.

Brad Smith said his mother's civil rights work meant their home phone was always ringing.

"Growing up we knew we had to share her with everybody," Brad Smith said. "We just understood we had to accept that's who she was. But we were so proud of her."
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