SMITH, ERNEST OLLINGTON
SMITH, ERNEST OLLINGTON (1880–1945). Ernest Ollington Smith, pioneer black Houston educator, was born in Shelby, Alabama, to William Dudley and Isabella (Glasco) Smith on July 4, 1880. He attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, from the seventh grade through graduation in 1903 and earned a B.A. degree. His father had been a slave and expert cabinetmaker in Alabama and was one of the artisans gathered from throughout the South to help build Jubilee Hall at Fisk University in 1875. Smith moved to Houston in 1904 when a Fisk University classmate wrote that the Hollywood Elementary School needed a principal. Smith married Nina Erwin on June 15, 1906. By 1909 he was principal of Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Houston (now Brock Elementary). In 1911 he accepted additional duties to become principal of Houston's first night school for blacks. When Phillis Wheatley High School, the third high school for blacks in Houston, opened in 1927, Smith was named principal. Within ten years the school had 2,600 students and sixty teachers and was one of the largest schools for black students in the country. In the mid-1930s Wheatley had more than thirty extracurricular activities. This program earned Smith the reputation for being one of the most progressive educators in Texas. In 1907 he established the Library Association, which raised $1,500 to purchase land for the Colored Carnegie Library. Andrew Carnegie appropriated $15,000 for the building, and the library was complete by 1912. Smith was the first president of the nine-member library board of trustees made up of prominent black leaders in Houston. Smith also cofounded the Pilgrim Congregational Church in Houston in 1904; cofounded the Fisk University Alumni Association of Houston; was a charter member and the first secretary of the International Longshoremen's Association in 1913; was a member of the Civic Betterment League, a forerunner of the Houston NAACP; and was a member of the Teachers State Association of Texas, a statewide association of black Texas teachers that dissolved in 1966, when the Texas State Teachers Association began to admit black members. Smith cofounded and became the first president of the Houston graduate chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, a national fraternity for blacks founded at Cornell University. He and his wife worked with numerous other organizations in Houston. They had three sons. Smith died in Houston on October 13, 1945. A Houston junior high school was later named for him.
Ira Babington Bryant, Jr., The Development of the Houston Negro Schools (Houston: Informer, 1935). Vernon McDaniel, History of the Teachers State Association of Texas (Washington: National Education Association, 1977). The Red Book of Houston (Houston: Sotex, 1915).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Patricia S. Prather, "SMITH, ERNEST OLLINGTON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsm83), accessed June 19, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.