Archive Record

  • Email This Page
  • Send Feedback
Accession number A2003.003
Collection Smith Family
Title The Vernon and Phoebe Smith Collection
Catalog Number A2003.003
Object Name Papers, Personal
Credit line Collection of the AAMI - courtesy of Phoebe Smith
Physical characteristics Boxed documents span three feet.
Dates of Creation 1942-2002
Access Conditions Open for research. Oversized blueprints are very fragile
Copyrights no known restrictions
Scope & Content The Vernon and Phoebe Smith family papers date from 1942 to 2002 and measure 2.9 linear feet. The papers are arranged in five series: Vernon and Phoebe Smith Personal, Phoebe Smith, Vernon Smith, Family, and Photographs.
The Vernon and Phoebe Smith Personal series (1951-1995) documents the life the Vernon and Phoebe Smith shared. The series contains information on the couple's wedding, building plans for home expansions, materials from foreign visitors, and correspondence from family and friends. The series also documents the Smith family's meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during his 1962 visit to Cedar Rapids.
The Phoebe Smith series (1948-1990) includes information about Mrs. Smith's community involvements. The series contains Phoebe Smith's athletic letter from 1948 and programs and meeting minutes from clubs in which she participated. The series also contains Phoebe Smith's "Iowa Mother of the Year" application from 1977, which includes letters from the Criterion Club, community members, and her husband and children praising Phoebe Smith's dedication to her family.
The Vernon Smith series (1942-2002) is divided into four subseries: personal, professional, community organizations, and community activities.
The Personal subseries includes Vernon Smith's class notes from Coe College and the University of Iowa, correspondence and newspaper clippings surrounding awards he received, and correspondence, memorabilia, and official documents from his service in World War II. The Professional subseries contains Smith's handwritten notes and syllabi from Coe College and St. Luke's Hospital lectures, transcripts of Smith's expert testimony in legal cases, Smith's job descriptions from St. Luke's Hospital, and materials from Smith's continuing education classes. Finally, the Community Organizations and Community Activities subseries document Smith's participation in various community groups with meeting minutes, programs, and correspondence.
The Family series (1949-2001) contains information on the immediate families of Vernon Smith and Phoebe Downs Smith. The Downs Family and Smith Family folders contain obituaries and newspaper clippings regarding the parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews of Vernon and Phoebe Smith. In addition, the series includes folders documenting each of their five children, including newspaper clippings, event programs, and correspondence.
The Photographs series (1944-1969) includes photographs from Vernon's awards, the couple's community activities, Ruby Smith's trip to Europe, and Vernon Smith's military service.
Biographical History The Vernon and Phoebe Smith family papers document the lives of Vernon Smith, his wife Phoebe Downs Smith, and their immediate ancestors and descendants. Vernon Smith was born on February 14, 1926 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He joined two brothers, Elmer and Louis, and a sister, Flavia. Vernon Smith attended Franklin Senior High School in Cedar Rapids and graduated in 1943. Following graduation, he was one of five people who worked with Arthur Collins, the founder of Collins Radio. In 1944, Vernon Smith was drafted into the army and served sixteen months in Europe, the Philippines, and Korea. Upon his return to the United States in 1946, Vernon Smith attended Coe College, where he received a B.A. in Chemistry in 1950. He entered the University of Iowa graduate program in Chemistry in 1950.
Phoebe Downs Smith was born in Elgin, Iowa, in 1931 to Jacob A. Downs, Sr., and Ruby M. Downs. The Downs family had nine children, including Phoebe, her sisters -- Anna, Grace, Mable, and Gloria Downs-- and her brothers-Jacob, Benjamin, Emil, and Otto Downs. Phoebe graduated from Elgin High School in 1949 and attended the Art Institute of Chicago until 1951.
On June 16, 1951, Phoebe Downs and Vernon Smith married in Elgin, IL. They made their home in Iowa City while Vernon completed his degree at the University of Iowa. In 1952, Vernon Smith completed his Master's degree in Organic Chemistry and the couple welcomed a daughter, Ruby Vesta Smith. In August, Vernon Smith was stricken with polio and lost the use of his legs, his right arm, and half of his left arm. He was hospitalized for a year at the University of Iowa hospital and the Veteran's Administration hospital in Iowa City. From 1953 to 1956, Vernon lived at home and underwent extensive physical therapy. During this time, their son, Vernon Paul Smith Jr., and their daughter, Deborah Verna Smith, were born.
In 1956, Vernon joined the staff at St. Luke's Methodist Hospital in Cedar Rapids as a lab technician. The Smiths welcomed two more daughters, Phoebe Delores Smith and Katharine G. Smith. The couple became involved in a variety of community organizations. The family belonged to the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids. In addition, Phoebe Downs Smith was active in the P.T.A., Girl Scouts of America, the Criterion Club, the Cedar Rapids League of Women Voters, and the Iowa Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. She served as a volunteer preschool teacher at the Jane Boyd Community House from 1962 to 1970. In 1977, Phoebe Smith was nominated for "Iowa Mother of the Year" and named a Merit Mother by the Iowa Mother's Association. In 1978, Phoebe Smith accepted a position as a Civil Service test examiner.
Vernon Smith co-founded the Cedar Rapids Negro Civic Organization in 1961 and served on its scholarship committee throughout the 1960s. In addition, he served as a member of the Cedar Rapids N.A.A.C.P. and the Cedar Rapids Council on Human Relations. In 1971, Vernon Smith was named "Handicapped Iowan of the Year".
Vernon Smith was instrumental in developing curricula in African American History at Coe College in Cedar Rapids and served as a lecturer on the topic from 1973 to 1976. In 1975, Coe College awarded him with its distinguished Alumni award. By 1976, Vernon Smith had become a biochemist at St. Luke's Hospital and a lecturer at its school of medical technology. In 1978, he was promoted to Supervisor of the Special Chemistry Department. From 1980 to 1994, Vernon served as a commissioner on the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission. Vernon Smith retired from St. Luke's Hospital in 1994 and was active in a variety of community organizations until his death in 2000.
Finding Aids Box no. Description

Box 1
Vernon and Phoebe Smith, Personal
1951-1971 and undated
Home addition building plans, 1957-1988 and undated
Foreign visitors
Botswana, 1967-1971
Jamaica, 1966
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visit, 1962
Mt. Mercy picnic, 1969
National Home Visit Day, 1964
Phoebe Downs/Vernon Smith marriage, 1951
Jesse Jackson Banquet/Democratic Convention, 1987,1988

Phoebe Smith
Graduation and Awards, 1948, 1949, 1970
Civil Service Examiner, appointment affidavit, 1978
Catalyst Club, 1951-1952
Correspondence, 1970-1996 and undated
Criterion Club, 1964-1989
"Homemaking and home economics," essay, undated
Iowa Mother of the Year application, 1977
Iowa Association of Colored Women's Clubs, 1965-1975 and undated

Box 2
National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, 1973
National Conference on Counseling Minorities and Disadvantaged, 1973
Newspaper clippings, 1963-1990 and undated

Vernon Smith
Vernon Smith, Personal
Handicap Parking placard
Coe College Alumni Award, 1975 (D)
Handicapped Iowan of the Year, 1971
Wall of Tolerance, 2002
Biographical information, undated
Correspondence, 1952-1959
Class notes
Advanced Inorganic Chemistry, 1950

Box 3
Introduction to Philosophy, 1950
Coe College Commencement, 1950
"Make Negro history week an open-end activity in 1966," undated
"Fair Housing," undated
"Age of Information," undated
"The Negro in America," undated
Military Service
Portrait, Italy, 1944
Selective Service, 1944
"The Devil's Tale," military newsletter, 1944
Army discharge papers, 1946
Veteran's administration correspondence, 1950- 1959
Miscellanious, 1972, undated
Newspaper clippings, 1965-1988 and undated
Wheelchair accessibility research, 1991-1997 and undated
Vernon Smith, Professional
Continuing education, 1969-1986
Correspondence, 1967-1996
Legal testimony
Elizabeth Ford vs. Lisa Hartwig, 1986-1988
Ryan Victor Baetke, et al. vs. Lawrence G. Lehew, et. al., 1988
Vance Birch vs. Amana Refrigeration, 1989
Laboratory outline, undated
Lecture notes
Biochemistry, 1964-1965

Box 4
Hormones, undated
Office calendar, 1989
"Adrenal medullary hormones: measurements and tests of function," undated
"Biochemical test of acid in anemia problems," undated
"The forgotten screens," AACC conference, 1989
"St. Luke's health careers," 1973
Newspaper clippings, 1968-1983 and undated
Resumes, 1976-1994 and undated
St. Luke's Hospital
1956-1981 and undated
Job descriptions, 1980-1990 and undated
Urinalysis notes, undated
Vocational counseling, 1947
Community Organizations
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1942-1999
Black Heritage Historical Society, 1988
Cedar Rapids Black Book Writer's Committee, 1986-1987
Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission

Box 5
Cedar Rapids Human Rights Commission, 1978-1970
Council on Human Relations, 1961-1968
Cedar Rapids Negro Civic Organization
By-laws and meeting minutes, 1961-1963
Scholarship committee, 1945-1976 and undated
Federation of Black Employees scholarship committee, 1976
Iowa Black Alumni Association, 1976, 1999, and undated
Iowa Rainbow Coalition, 1988
Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, 1986, 1991,1997
Keep Hope Alive, 1989
Minority Opportunities Board, 1971-1977
NAACP Cedar Rapids, 1985-1996

Box 6
Project Independence, 1987-1990
Afro-American Heritage Week, Coe College 1975
Allen, Lincoln, Douglass Banquet, Bethel AME Church, 1985-1999
Black History Month, 1985, 1990-1992
Black student scholarship banquet committee, 1989
Cedar Rapids Committee for the Handicapped luncheon, 1986
Cedar Rapids Schools Curriculum Advisory Board, 1985-1986
Coe College Black Alumni, 1979
Duke Ellington presentation, KCCK, 1997
Fidelity Lodge Banquet, 1967
Franklin High School 50th anniversary class reunion, 1994
Hobby and Model Show judging, 1978-1979
Jane Boyd Community House, 1973
Linn County Correctional Chaplaincy Advisory Committee, 1984-1986
Mount Mercy College Emerging Leaders Program, 1997
Muscatine Campaign to save the Alexander Clark Home, with photographs, undated
National Leadership recognition banquet, 1982
Para transit system, undated
Sickle cell anemia testing, 1988
Viola Gibson scholarship committee, 1986

Downs family, 1949-1991 and undated
Smith family, 1970-1986 and undated

Box 7
Vesta Smith estate papers, 1957-1958
Girl Scouts, Ruby and Deborah Smith, 1968
Science fair, Vernon and Deborah Smith, 1964
Deborah Smith, 1960-1981
Katharine Smith, 1973-2001
Phoebe Smith,1965-1974.1977-1986
Ruby Smith,1961-1991 and undated

European correspondence, 1968 (2 folders)
Vernon Smith, Jr., 1959-1972 and undated

Awards, undated
Family, identified, 1963-1966 and undated
Family, unidentified and undated
Franklin High School Class of 1943 Reunion, 1963
Janet Smith, 1963
Negatives, 1955 and undated
Phoebe Smith Girl Scouts, 1968
Ruby Smith
1970 and undated
Berlin, 1969
Vernon and Phoebe Smith, 1950 and undated
World War Two service, 1944

OS Collection
-Color photocopy of Vernon Smith
-Citation for Meritorious Service given to Vernon Smith by The President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped, December 1969
-Award of Merit given to Vernon P. Smith Sr. by the Health and Welfare Ministries Division Board of Global Ministries-The United Methodist Church, March 1981
-Photocopy of pencil drawing of military planes the "Alice Jo" and the "Macon Belle," signed by the pilot of the Macon Belle and given to Phoebe, Vernon, and Johnathan Smith
-Laminated newspaper clipping from the Cedar Rapids Gazette May 8, 1977 titled "Phoebe Smith: A Lesson in Courage from an Iowa Merit Mother"
-Laminated newspaper clipping and copies of clipping from Linn County and East Cedar Rapids edition - from the Cedar Rapids Gazette November 6, 1985 titled "Vernon Smith - He's Passed Numerous Tests of Will"
-Pencil drawing of dog barking at seagull on dock with sail and motorboat in background, undated
-10 woodcuts of dog barking at seagull on dock in various colors all signed "Vernon Smith," undated
-Laminated newspaper clipping from the Cedar Rapids Gazette November 25, 1990 titled "African American becomes name of choice for many"
-3 blueprints of addition to Smith's house dated April 23, 1987 - very fragile
- Print in a cartoon style of African American choir
-Copy of newspaper clipping from West Cedar Rapids edition of the Cedar Rapids Gazette Neighbors - article on Mason Dry Cleaners
Subjects Activists
Civil rights
Veterans' benefits
Handicapped persons
Search Terms Cedar Rapids
Scout leaders
Girl Scouts
Civil Rights Commission - Cedar Rapids
St. Luke's Hospital
Veterans hospitals
World War II
Coe College
University of Iowa
People Smith, Phoebe
Smith, Vernon, Sr.
Collins, Arthur
Smith, Elmer, Sr.
Smith, Louis
Downs, Jacob A. Sr.
Downs, Ruby M.
Smith, Flavia
Downs, Anna
Downs, Grace
Downs, Amble
Downs, Gloria
Downs, Jacob, Jr.
Downs, Benjamin
Downs, Emil
Downs, Otto
Smith, Ruby
Smith, Vernon, Jr.
Smith, Deborah
Smith, Phoebe Delores
Smith, Katherine
Classification Organizations & Clubs
Civil Rights
Medicine & Doctors
Domestic Life
Creator Phoebe Smith