Civil Rights Legend Vasco Smith Dies

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Vasco Smith, who led in the fight for civil rights for more than 50 years, died in Memphis this afternoon.

The death was announced at the County Commission meeting this afternoon by County Mayor A.C. Wharton: “Dr. Vasco Smith just expired a few minutes ago. He served on this body from 1973 to 1994. I’ve been with Ms. Smith in the last hour. And under the circumstances she’s well.”

Smith was the first African American elected at large to the County Commission, serving from 1974 to 1993, always as an eloquent advocate for the dispossessed.He was a leader in the movement to establish The Med as a fully equipped successor to John Gaston charity hospital.

He and his wife Maxine were nationally known civil rights leaders, and instrumental in many seminal events, including the integration of the University of Memphis and Memphis movie theaters.

Smith, for many years a dentist with a widespread practice, was also a near-legendary jazz aficianado, with one of the finest private collections of jazz recordings in existence.

Bone cancer had slowed Smith down in recent years, and a bout of West Nile Virus, accelerated by a weakened immune system, led to his final illness.

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