Rev. Arthur Smith, 70, of Louisville, died Monday, February 25, 2013 at Jewish Hospital. He was the pastor of Portland Memorial Missionary Baptist Church for forty-six years, the old city of Louisville tenth ward Alderman from 1981 to 1989, the former president of the NAACP Youth Council and a former member of the NAACP Executive Committee.
Survivors include his wife, Barbara Smith; two sons, Rev. Stephen D. (Odessa) and Leon A. Smith (Margaret); three brothers, Donald E. (Toni), Victor L. (Mae) and Rev. Gregory F. Smith (Tonya); two daughters, by marriage Reginale D. and Rhonda Rattler; 12 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
His funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 2, 2013 at Portland Memorial Missionary Baptist Church 3800 W. Market St., with burial in Green Meadows Cemetery. Visitation will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at the church. Arrangements are by W. P. Porter Mortuary and G. C. Williams Funeral Home.
Bio from Church Website:
Rev. Smith was born to the late James Arthur and Katherine E. Smith in Louisville, KY and was the eldest of six sons. He is a product of the Old Louisville Public School System and then attended Georgetown College and Simmons Bible College. He went on to do further ministerial studies in various denominational seminars and serves in the General Association of Kentucky Baptists and Central District Baptist Associations respectively. Rev. Smith received in October 2006 a proclamation from the Superintendent of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, deeming him as a Hero of the Baptist Faith!
In October 1966, he accepted the pastorate of Portland Baptist Church, now known as the Portland Memorial Missionary Baptist Church, Since that time he has served as pastor, leader, counselor, advisor and a dedicated servant for 43 years. He currently gives spiritual direction to 17 associate ministers, 32 deacons, 15 trustees, and 40 ministries.
He is the former Commissioner for the Housing Authority of Louisville; former Youth Director of Region 3 of the NAACP; He lead the drive to lower the voting age to 18; former Vice President of the Louisville Branch NAACP; former Youth President of the Louisville Chapter of the NAACP’ served 10 years on the Louisville Board of Alderman as Elected Official and chaired the Housing and Safety Commission; established the Tenth Ward Advisory Counsel; Co-founder of the West Louisville Community Ministries; served as Interim Pastor for two years at First Baptist Church of Georgetown, KY; served as Social Service Director of the Old Louisville Police Court under Judge Benjamin Shobe and former Judge Neville Tucker; taught several years in the Progressive National Baptist Convention in the Sunday School Department; taught several Kentucky and Indiana Kentucky religious institutes; recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award at Lampton Baptist Church and Shawnee High School, the recipient of multiple Kentucky Colonel Awards and the prestigious Delahanty-Shobe-Tucker Civil Rights Award and this summer received the Molly Leonard Award from Council Woman Cheryl Bryant Hamilton and the City of Louisville. He has been affiliated with many organizations and remains a faithful worker in the community despite challenging health battles and has been chosen for the “Who’s Who in Black Kentuckians in 2008!
Under his leadership, Portland has grown physically and spiritually in the formation of many outreach ministries including: PortShaw Community CDC, which houses the area “Dare to Care” food distribution site/Senior Activities/ AA meetings and community evangelism; and the most recent acquisition is that of the West Market Street Community Laundry that helps individuals and provides employment in our community.
He is dedicated to moving Portland Memorial from mere Membership to Discipleship.
I am a proud son of the Portland, Oregon area. It was in Portland that I learned how to walk, talk, run, and sleep. It was in Portland that I began the process of education at Ockley Green Elementary School, Jefferson High School and attended several schools – United Theological Seminary and Bible College, American Baptist Seminary of the West, Multnomah School of the Bible, and Golden Gate Theological Seminary – all either based in Portland or Portland-based extensions. I began my secular employment there and my church employment there. I learned how to sing in Portland, I learned how to play piano and organ in Portland. I lived with my parents on Borthwick Avenue and then Rodney Avenue. After I was grown, I lived on Vancouver Avenue, Lombard Street, Skidmore Street, and Taylor Street. I fell in love the first time in Portland and had my heart-broken for the first time in Portland. Most importantly, I gave my life to Jesus Christ in Portland, Baptized in Portland, and was called to preach in Portland.
That Portland is now gone.
Gentrification has occurred in a manner that I have never seen before. In the 1940s through the 1960s, a migration of African-Americans came to Portland seeking a better life from their roots in the South. They came from Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and other states to seek employment in a bustling small town that was primarily known for it’s lumber and maritime industries. Most black people in that area settled in an area called Bagley Downs in Vancouver, Washington, which flooded and most blacks settled in the Albina area (then called Albina, Oregon), inner North East Portland, and St. Johns to the far north of the city. Very few African-Americans lives in Northwest, Southwest and East Portland.
The community was thriving albeit without the full support of the city for necessary services. When I was a child in the 1960s, I remember that nothing was convenient – stores were not like their other locations. Gas stations were far and few between. Shopping for groceries meant going to Tradewell or Fred Meyer or Safeway. Fred Meyer had two stores – one on Union (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.) and on Interstate (now Rosa Parks Boulevard). To shop for clothing meant a trip to the Lloyd Center, the nation’s first mall. We had schools that were the pride of our communities – Grant, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Monroe/Benson for females and males respectively.
However, we rarely had our own radio stations. We didn’t have flourishing restaurants or chefs in the communities. There were three main drags – Union Avenue, Vancouver/Williams Avenues and Mississippi Boulevard. If you had a prescription, you went to the Rexall store. If you were a black female and about to give birth, only one doctor delivered most of the black babies – Dr. Richard W. Franklin at Emanuel Hospital (aka the black hospital). I actually worked with Dr. Franklin in my early 20s at Emanuel.
Churches were thriving and located almost next door to each other. New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Gantenbein, Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church on Vancouver Avenue, Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church on Ivy, St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church on Morris, The Churches of God in Christ on Ainsworth and Stanton, The Catholic Churches on Williams Avenue and Vancouver Avenue, Mt. Olivet on Schuyler, Maranatha, New Song and other churches scattered within a 20 mile radius.
Something has happened. In the name of Urban Renewal, what were once proud African-American communities are now gone. Homes have been sold to planners and now there is not a trace of the black community in most of the areas. Schools have been closed. Houses torn down. Churches gone. The Wonder Bread bakery where my mom worked for years – gone. Geneva’s Lounge which burned down years ago – not a trace. St. Mark Baptist Church, Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, Providence Baptist Church – now just a memory. Even the site of where Morning Star stood and suffered a horrific fire is now the settlement of homes called “Morning Star Village.”
Bicycle paths line the streets. Street festivals are common place. Bars have increased some 20 fold in the community. Adult Book Stores, Lottery gaming establishments, stores, clothing stores, and the such have moved in and black people have been forced to relocate to “the numbers” which is a 30 to 60 minute drive from downtown Portland. The old neighborhood was less than 15 minutes.
I applaud success but I cannot applaud the displacement of those who built those homes, created the infrastructure and paved the way for those who live in the area today. Housing prices are now astronomical. My parents bought our childhood home on Rodney Avenue for $35,000. Recently the house was up for sale at over $600,000. African-Americans are being redlined and instead of encouraging them to stay, the doors of the suburbs are now open. It has had a whirlwind affect.
I feel, personally, that this form of gentrification has long term affect on the psyches of those who no longer have a sense of community. The are locked out economically from homes that for generations have housed the men and women who scrubbed the floors, cleared the boats, built the ships, laid the asphalt.
What’s my point? I don’t know if I have one. I’m partially glad to see services that are long overdue and small businesses invading the area. However, the cost may be too high for the livability of African-Americans. Thank God for those who are still trying to bring about a sense of community. The word “diaspora” comes in clear here. Normally, we consider the African Diaspora, when speaking of native-peoples who were removed from their lands.
But there has now been a Portland Diaspora.
I welcome your comments.