Robert Collins (R.C.) Smith (93) passed away peacefully on Wednesday, December 30th, 2020, at his home in Jamestown, North Carolina, at approximately 7 a.m. At his side were his wife of forty-one years, Kathryn Smith, and one of his granddaughters, Emeline Smith.
R.C. was born April 3, 1927, in Queens, New York, to Harold and Emily Smith. He served in the United States Army initial occupation force in Japan before returning to study at the University of North Carolina. He graduated with a journalism degree in 1950 and won the prestigious Neiman Fellowship to study at Harvard 1960-61. R.C. worked for several newspapers in Virginia and North Carolina. He wrote news and editorials for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot from 1954 to 1963 and the Charlotte News from 1964 to 1968. He also had a column syndicated in five papers for six years. Additionally, R.C. was well known as the long time movie and jazz critic for the Durham Herald for over 25 years from the 1970s to the 1990s.
R.C. published two books of note during his career. The first, when he was known as Bob Smith, They Closed Their Schools (1965, UNC Press; reprinted to benefit the R. R. Moton Museum, 1996), chronicled the history of Prince Edward County in Virginia after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision called for the integration of public schools. The county made the decision not to fund its public schools rather than integrate and R.C. reported on the consequences of that decision for both the black and white populations of the county. The second, A Case about Amy (1996), told the story of the first Supreme Court case under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, Hudson Central School District v. Rowley. R.C. worked with Amy Rowley's family to tell the story of the family's fight for a sign language interpreter for their daughter in the public school system.
R.C. was also a founding employee of MDC, Inc., where he served from 1968 to 1992 as an advocate for education, especially educating "at risk" children. Among other projects, he worked to research and document innovative programs that promoted equity in public schools. He also was tremendously proud to serve as an adjunct professor of journalism at his alma mater the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A long time Tar Heel sports fan, R.C. loved to root on Tar Heel athletics (especially football and basketball), the New York/San Francisco Giants baseball team, and any pro team with a Tar Heel alum on the roster. For many years he wrote a limited-circulation newsletter on Tar Heel sports.
R.C. is survived by his wife, Kathryn Smith, and three sons: Chris Smith, Timothy Smith (Monique), step-son Will Baker (Patricia), and a cousin Kathleen Cercone (Vince). He is survived by seven grandchildren: Kirsten, Moriah, Alex, and Emeline Smith, and Analicia, Matthew, and Joseph Baker. He joins Robyn Addison, his daughter who passed away in 1997.
Those who wish to make a donation in his honor may give to St. Timothy's United Methodist Church, Jamestown, NC; the R. R. Moton Museum in Farmville, Virginia; or any food or education organization of the donor's choice. Condolences may be made through www.cumbyfuneral.com