December 14,1929 November 18,2010
Ernest Carl Smith (Ernie), father, brother, husband, grandfather, educator, organizer, political activist and role model- passed away on November 18,2010.
Ernest Carl Smith was born in Bastrop, Louisiana on December 14, 1929. He was the only child of Carl David Smith and Luvinia (Tinkschell) Smith. Ernest is survived by three siblings: Valeria Hon, Foraker Smith, PhD.(SouChan) and Edward Johnson. His youngest sister, Brenda Buani-Smith, preceded him in death. Ernest came to Los Angeles as a teenager and graduated from Jefferson High School. He attended Trade Tech College and then began his career as a construction worker. He was among the first African American members of the Sheet Metal Workers Union.
Ernest married Eleanor Ruth Kenegsberg in 1953. To this union two children were born, Cheryl Laureen and Lynetta Ann. After Eleanor’s untimely death in 1966, Ernest reared his daughters as a widower. Fifteen years later in 1980, Ernest found a new companion to share his life with. He married Mary Ann Chatman Bowdoin and together, they blended their two families to become a family of two sons and four daughters:Tracie,Bowdoin, Phillip (Carla) Bowdoin, Wayne (Monique) Bowdoin,and Zakiyah Pierce,along with Cheryl (Merritt) Vincent and Lynetta ( Larry) McElroy .
In 1969, Ernest decided to make a career change to become an Industrial Arts and Social Studies Teacher for 26 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The majority of his teaching years were spent at John Muir and Markham Junior High Schools in Los Angeles. He was well regarded as a strong educator who had high expectations of his students. During this time, Ernest was raising two pre-teen daughters alone, working full time and carrying a full academic load. Ernest completed his Bachelor of Science Degree and Teaching Credential from California State University, Los Angeles. He later received his Masters of Arts degree from Pepperdine University in 1978.
Ernie was a dynamic leader fighting for the rights of educators. He was a Charter Member of the United Teachers of Los Angeles. In 1971, after only one year of teaching, he participated in a contentious teachers’ strike in that lasted six weeks. Never once did he consider crossing the picket-line Ernest taught For 26 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The majority of those teaching years were spent at John Muir and Edwin Markham Jr. High Schools. He was well regarded as a strong educator who had high expectations of his students. He felt satisfaction that at least every year, he was able to effect major positive changes to several of his student and “turn them around”.
Ernest’s commitment, activism and fight for equal opportunities were demonstrated throughout Ernest’s lifetime. His efforts helped to improve the lives of thousands. Some of his noteworthy achievements are exemplified in: the removal of racial restrictive housing covenants in Los Angeles, the hiring of Black nurses in the Los Angeles County Hospital and the establishment of both the Martin Luther King Hospital and Southwest Community College. His passion for politics and for the defense of basic human rights took him across the country to marches, conferences, rallies, and the organization of boycotts and labor strikes; running for political office twice. Over the years up until the two months prior to is death, Ernest could be seen walking precincts, phone banking, and speaking to small groups through out the community in preparation for up coming local,state, and federal elections. Ernie was an active member of the NAACP for over 60 years. Most recently he was Treasurer of the Los Angeles Chapter. He was instrumental in the political careers numerous elected officials; former Congresswoman Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, the late Thomas Bradley, Superintendent Mark Ridley-Thomas, and former assemblyman and senator Mervyn Dymally just to name a few.
As a “Renaissance Man,” Ernest was just as comfortable attending the Bolshoi Ballet as he was Nisei Week, a Seder or a Kwanzaa celebration. Always interested in the lives of others, he traveled with his wife, Mary Ann, to the Ivory Coast in Africa, the former USSR, China, The British Isles, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and most recently, the Panama Canal.
Ernest was a devoted and active member of Saint Mark United Methodist Church. He served as an usher, Trustee and was a reliable member of the United Methodist Men’s organization. His was also instrumental in establishing a church sponsored tutoring program . A faithful and righteous man, Ernest never compromised his dignity, honesty, principles or integrity.
In addition to the above mentioned family,Ernest is lovingly survived by; granddaughters- Pamela (Austen), April, Amber, Jessica, Nia, Lena and Alanis; grandsons- Carl, Nathan, David, Sean-Paul, Langston, Elyakeem and Blake; great-granddaughter- Lorelei; aunt- Octavia Rucker; niece- Angela (Willie) McGowan; nephew- Kenneth (Lori) Hon; and a host of nieces, nephews,relatives,and friends.
In his memory , the family would like friends to consider making a contribution to The Stanford Cancer Center Development Office at 2700 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025 (650) 234-0651/office (650)- 234-0644/fax