By The Chicago Crusader
Longtime Chicago educator and activist Allen Smith died suddenly on November 26, 2018 in Chicago. Funeral services were held December 5 in Country Club Hills, Illinois. Smith was 69-years-old.
Smith is the brother of John L. Smith, the General Manager of the Chicago and Gary Crusader Newspapers.
Born in St. Louis, Allen attended school in Chicago, graduating from Lindblom High School.
Though he received a law degree from Southern University, Smith spent most of his professional career as an educator with the Chicago Public Schools system. He taught both elementary and high school. He also taught at Chicago State University.
Highly regarded both in the classroom and as an assistant principal, Smith shared his love of learning with students at all grade levels.
Soenga Evans, President of Dunbar Vocational High School Alumni Association in a letter of sympathy thanked the family, saying that Dunbar students appreciated the years the family allowed the former administrator, “our Dunbar Assistant Principal Smith, to be here with us.”
As a young man Smith was known for his athletic prowess. His hoop skills were honed on the streets of Chicago and led him to Wilson Junior College where he played men’s varsity basketball. During his early university years, he played at Michigan State University for the Spartans. After graduation he parlayed his athletic talent into a professional contract, playing professional basketball in Nice, France.
It was while he was at Michigan State that Allen’s activism developed. He led protests that contributed to changes in sports administration, paving the way for NBA great Magic Johnson and others, who followed Allen at Michigan State.
His activism and passion were noted in the Masters thesis of John Matthew Smith at Western Michigan University, “Black Power in Green and White: Integration and Black Protest in Michigan State University Football from 1947-1972.”
In the thesis Allen was acknowledged for his influence and effectiveness as the organizer and spokesperson for the Coalition of Black Athletes. The campus organization represented the interests of players in a variety of sports at the school. Allen remarked that “in rap sessions we found out that most of us [players] had the same kinds of problems so we decided to get together.”
For a brief period, Allen engaged in local politics, vying for public office as Congressman in Illinois’ First Congressional District.
Following his death tributes recognizing Smith’s contributions in his many roles filled mail boxes and social media sites.
Smith is survived by his wife Melvinia, and seven of his 11 siblings. He was the father of six.
This article originally appeared in the Chicago Crusader.