Black History | Dr. Herbert Smitherman

Dr. Herbert SmithermanDr. Herbert Smitherman was a pioneering executive and professional  chemist at Proctor & Gamble who led the way for other  African-Americans at the prestigious company in the 1960s. He was the  first black person with a doctorate hired at Proctor & Gamble.

With  a Ph.D in physical organic chemistry, Dr. Smitherman developed a number  of incredibly popular patents, including Crest toothpaste, Safeguard  soap, Bounce fabric softeners, Biz, Folgers Coffee and Crush soda, to  name a few. Not only are they still on the shelves, but many of them are  on display at the Cincinnati Museum Center in the featured exhibit,  “America I AM: The African-American Imprint.”

Nicknamed the  “Jackie Robinson of Proctor & Gamble,” Dr. Smitherman spent 29 years  there before turning in his labcoat to work as a professor at  Wilberforce University. But after serving at the historically black  college, Smitherman turned his attention to starting a high school  called the Western Hills Design Technology School to help black students  perform better in math and science.

A child of the south, Dr.  Smitherman’s family lived in Birmingham, Alabama, where his father  served as a reverend. A young Smitherman would see his father’s church  burn down twice during their push for voting registration and voting  rights.

About SouthernGirl2

A Native Texan who adores baby kittens, loves horses, rodeos, pomegranates, & collect Eagles. Enjoys politics, games shows, & dancing to all types of music. Loves discussing and learning about different cultures. A Phi Theta Kappa lifetime member with a passion for Social & Civil Justice.
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11 Responses to Black History | Dr. Herbert Smitherman

  1. Ber Lady says:

    Good read!

  2. An interesting article about a great American.

  3. Yahtc says:

    If you click this link you will see the same photo of Mary Hamilton that I am looking at next to my computer. My newswire photo says

    April 1, 1964
    Call me MISS—Mary Hamilton, a Negro CORE field secretary, answers questions in her New Orleans office following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in her favor.

    The High Court ruled she has the RIGHT to be called “Miss” in court.

    Her suit arose from a contempt citation in Alabama when she REFUSED to answer questions after the prosecution addressed her only as “Mary”

    I say this is one fantastic, strong woman!

    She should always be remembered for this and for her other work in the Civil Rights Movement.

    • Yahtc says:


      Hamilton was held in contempt of court, fined, and failed for 5 days. While jailed, The NAACP appealed the contempt conviction to the Supreme Court, and in the 1964 case Hamilton v. Alabama, ruled that addressing Hamilton by her first name only violated her right to equal protection.

      Hamilton died in 2002. Her challenge and the Supreme Court decision is known as the “Miss Mary” case. It’s important that we remember even the smallest demands for respect CAN change history!

      • Good fine, Yahtc!

        Thank you for this!

      • Yahtc says:



        Gadsden, Alabama, became a center of CORE activity after the Freedom Walkers and Diane Nash’s Christian Movement for Human Rights volunteers were incarcerated there.

        Mary Hamilton, CORE’s only female field secretary, had been pressed into service to keep an eye on them.

        A light-skinned black who refused to pass for white, Hamilton was a first-grade teacher in Los Angeles in 1961 and one of only to L.A. CORE members. The day after the Freedom Riders were beaten in Birminghamd she registered two hundred new members.

        “We were beside ourselves with joy,” she remembered. “So many people finally fighting back! History had provided us with an opportunity, and I was not going to waste it.”

        School ended Friday, and Hamilton boarded a train to Jackson, Mississippi, Monday morning. She was arrested for integrating the white waiting room in Jackson’s Illinois Central railway station three days later and spent forty days at Parchman penitentiary.

        (To be continued)

      • Yahtc says:

        You are welcome, SG2. This wire-photo just arrived in my mail this morning :)

      • Yahtc says:

        In 1962 Hamilton worked with Freedom Walkers Eric Weinberger and Winston Lockett in Lebanon, Tennessee, and in the Spring of 1963 she was dispatched to Birmingham. Leaving Sixteenth Street Baptist Church after a rally, she was arrested, placed in solitary confinement, and nearly raped by a white guard. Hamilton put up such a struggle that he told her she wasn’t worth the trouble, and threw her back into the open holding pen.

        Mary Hamilton knew how dangerous county jails were, and she was very will to leave her organizing work in Chattanooga to go to Gadsden and watch over the Freedom Walkers. She and Marvin Robinson, a Chatanooga coworker; Arlene Wilkes, who’d been arrest with Madeleine Sherwood and the Keener Freedom Walkers; and the SCLC’s Bernard Lee Mobilized the Gadsden Freedom Movement. Sam Shirah was one of six SNCC staffers assigned to help them.

        Gadsden had always been a dangerous place for activists. The Goodyear Tire Company had opened its first southern plants in Gadsden in 1929, and union organizers who were not willing to abide by Jim Crow were run out of town.

        When Vice President Henry Wallace, the Progress Party’s 1948 anti-segregationist presidential candidate, campaigned in Gadsden, Klansmen pounded his car with lead pipes and tried to pull him out of it. Wallace fled without making a single speech and declared that he’s “seen the eyes of fascism.”

        Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the Gadsden Klan sponsored tent revivals where the hooded evangelists encouraged native-born Americans to accept Jesus and join the invisible empire. In 1959, the local Klavern erected a “Welcome to Gadsden” sign at the city limits.

        Just four years later Gadsden’s black citizens were picketing segregated hotels, restaurants, school, and parks. They conducted silent marches to demand employment opportunities in the downtown department stores, had sit-ins, blocked business entrances, conducted “snake dances” through the shopping district, and staged a lie-in on Main Street.

        Shirah worked with some local people who planned to finish Bill Moore’s walk to Jackson. It was a much larger group than the SNCC/CORE band and was predominantly black.

        (more in awhile)

      • Yahtc says:

        On June 14 as they began their walk, Gadsden’s mayor, Leslie Gilliland, obtained an injunction to stop ALL demonstrations within the city limits. Four hundred fifty activists, including the Freedom Walkers, were arrested.

        The following day three hundred blacks standing outside the Etowah County Courthouse conducting a silent prayer vigil were ATTACKED by Al Lingo’s state troopers swinging wooden clubs and cattle prods. The Gadsden city police actually intervened to stop the blue-helmeted troopers as they viciously beat a black woman who had stumbled.

        On June 20 Shirah attended a max meeting at the Galilee Baptist Church to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., offer words of encouragement. “Sometimes we hear, even from the lips of some of the highest officials in the land, that we ought to stop,” King said. “The only way is for them to get rid of the conditions that brought these demonstrations into being. We will demonstrated until they integrate!”

        Five hundred twenty-three people had been jailed by June 23. Half were under sixteen years of age. When the mothers of the arrested children marched, fifty two of them were also incarcerated. Gadsden seemed to be on its way to becoming another Birmingham.

        (More soon)

      • Yahtc says:

        In the midst of the rising tension, Shirah learned that Bob Zellner had been jailed in Danville, and that Forman wanted him to drive up to Virginia to help out there. Zellner, Avon Rollins (who’d been an observer on the Freedom Walk), and Ivanhoe Donaldson, a black SNCC field secretary from New York City, had been assisting Rev. Lawrence Campbell with Danville’s “equity in public hiring” campaign, and all were charged ….
        (p. 138 is missing…rats!)
        The Etowah County Courthouse had recently been bombed, and Diane Nash’s Alabama Christian Movement walkers were still inside.

        Mary Hamilton had spent time in the Etowah jail herself. She’d been sentenced for contempt of court when she refused to respond to cross-examination by a prosecuting attorney who addressed her as “Mary.”
        White women were always respectfully addressed as Miss or Mrs., and Mary Hamilton insisted on being called “Miss Hamilton.”

        She appealed her conviction, and when the Alabama Supreme Court refused to hear the case, Hamilton v. Alabama went directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hamilton’s conviction was reversed in 1964.

        The federal justices determined that the practice of addressing blacks by their first names amounted to establishing a racial caste system.

        Further, they deemed it unconstitutional to punish a black witness for refusing to respond when addressed by his or her first name.

        The NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund considered the “Miss Mary Decision” a landmark ruling.

        All of the above came from the link above and is from the book entitled “Freedom Walk: Mississippi or Bust.”

      • Yahtc says:

        This is a 1963 photo of Mary Hamilton in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. She is standing next to Rev. Joe Carter, the first Black person to vote in that parish in 61 years because of Jim Crow segregation laws. Whites had retaliated by terrorizing those few Blacks who attempted to register with burning crosses, threats of violence and physical violence itself, as well as the loss of home and livelihood.

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