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Smith/McGill Family papers

Identifier: 1988_041-UA

The Smith/McGill family papers is a collection of personal and business documents from James Edward Smith, Verna Smith and Charlotte Smith McGill. The material contains information from 1879 to 1978. The papers consist of correspondence, financial and legal documents, printed and handwritten material, scrapbooks, and a large group of photographs. Specific topics, arranged alphabetically are: Calvary Baptist Church, Domestic Life and Accident Insurance Co., Fidelity Industrial Plan, Kentucky Government, Louisville Government, National Housewives League, National Insurance Association, National Negro Insurance Association, National Urban League, and Third District Democratic Colored Women's Club. The collection documents the family's strong commitment to their church and their community. All were actively involved in the Democratic Party at the local, state, and national levels and the papers reveal the importance the family placed on the political process. James Edward Smith's papers are the strongest part of the collection. They contain information on his personal and business interests, with much attention paid to two areas - the files of the Domestic Life and Accident Insurance Company and of the Calvary Baptist Church. Another area of importance is the documentation of the National Housewives League. Founded as an auxiliary to the Falls City Chamber of Commerce, Verna Smith was heavily involved in its governance, serving as and was a lifelong member. The collection contains little information on Hughes McGill, husband of Charlotte Smith McGill, although his mother's attempt during World War II to obtain dependent benefits are documented. Photographs are a major part of the Smith/McGill papers. An attempt was made to identify many of the photos and place them in appropriate categories by name of person and or event. Unfortunately, Mrs. McGill died before she could be contacted about the unidentified photographs.


  • circa 1879-1978


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has been transferred to the University of Louisville and there are no additional restrictions.


6.375 linear feet (4 records center boxes, flats, 1 half-manuscript box and oversized materials)

Biographical / Historical

James Edward Smith: James Edward Smith and his family were influential members of Louisville's black community. James Edward, also known as J.E., actively participated in the city's business life. In 1920 he co-founded the Domestic Life and Accident Insurance Company, and while in that capacity served as president of the National Negro Insurance Association. Upon retirement in 1962, he founded the Fidelity Industrial Plan, a loan company. He was a founder and member of the Falls City Chamber of Commerce, and a founder of the National Housewives League, a chamber auxiliary. Also politically active, Smith represented Kentucky's 42nd district in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1964 to 1968. During those same years, he was a member of the Jefferson County (Kentucky) Democratic executive committee and was a delegate to the 1964 Democratic presidential convention. Other memberships include the Urban League, of which he was vice chair, and the NAACP. A lifelong member of the Calvary Baptist Church, located at 1368 S. 25th Street, Louisville, he was on its board of trustees for many years. He was born in 1883 and died in 1969. Verna Smith: Like her husband, Verna Smith fully participated in the Louisville community. She was a member and served as president of the National Housewives' League, and took part in the many activities of her church. She served the Democratic Party on both the local and national level, was an alternate delegate to the 1944 Democratic presidential convention and has the distinction of being the first black president of a local Democratic Club and the first black woman co-captain of a precinct. Verna Smith was born in Lyons, Indiana in 1889 and died, Louisville, Kentucky in 1966. Charlotte McGill: A Louisville native, Charlotte Smith McGill shared her parents’ participation in government and politics. She was a graduate of Howard University and received her master's degree from Indiana State University. She married Hughes McGill in 1949. Mr. McGill served in the Kentucky legislature and is best known as the sponsor of the McGill Fair Housing Bill advocating open housing. At his death in 1970, Charlotte agreed to serve out his unexpired term and in that capacity was a member of the Governor's Special Committee on Reapportionment. In 1971 she was elected to the first of her own three full terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives. For many years, she was vice-chair of the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee, active in the Democratic Women's Club and an NAACP board member. Business interests included a real estate and insurance business started with her husband, employment with the city of Louisville Sanitation Department, and a member of St. Charles Catholic Church. She died in December 1988.

Processing Information

This collection was substantially reprocessed in 2019. The collection had been arranged roughly but not consistently in subject order. It was rearranged to associate material with specific family members, insofar as possible. The folder titles indicate that this may have been an approach initially taken by the first processors; it is not clear why another arrangement scheme was pursued at that time. Because of this arrangement and re-arrangement, some material that may logically "belong" with a specific family member is filed in the Family series. In cases where the folder title did not make it clear which family member it was associated with, the folder was normally filed with this more general series. Thus, researchers are advised to look beyond the individual family member they may be focusing on.


Smith/McGill Family Papers
Carrie Daniels
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Repository

Ekstrom Library, Lower Level Room 17
Louisville KY 40292
502 852-6752