Educator Emily B. Smith was born on September 3, 1904, to cultured, educated parents, Byron Frances and Anneta Duggin Smith, near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Soon after her birth the family relocated in southwest Oklahoma, where her father established a successful ranching operation. As a young girl Emily was stricken with polio, and although given the best care, she suffered a limp throughout her life. A gifted student, she completed a bachelor's degree in history at Oklahoma College for Women (now University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma) and a master's degree in history at the University of Oklahoma, where she was a classmate of Carl Albert. She then returned to Jackson County to begin a history teaching career. She taught at Lincoln Consolidated School, Eldorado School, and Altus High School.
In 1933, during the Great Depression, Smith accepted the position of dean of Altus Junior College, which became Western Oklahoma State College. Enrollment had dwindled to twenty-seven students. Smith quickly built community support and initiated federal programs, such as the National Youth Administration and the Civil Aviation Program. Enrollment rose to six hundred students by 1940, the end of Smith's tenure. With the courage and fortitude developed from her long battle with the aftereffects of polio, she gained a secure future for Western Oklahoma State College.
A member of the First Presbyterian Church in Altus, Smith also belonged to the Anne Lee Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a chapter of the PEO Sisterhood, and various professional organizations. She died following surgery on August 21, 1975, in an Amarillo, Texas, hospital and was buried in Altus Cemetery.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Altus (Oklahoma) Times-Democrat, 24 August 1975. Glyna G. Olson and Leo Kelley, "Emily B. Smith: Educator with Vision," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 69 (Fall 1991).
Glyna G. Olson
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