If things are, as they say, slower in the South, then integration was no exception. The 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring separate public schools for white and black children unconstitutional, finally incited change in McDowell County schools 11 years later; in some West Virginia counties, like Mercer, which desegregated in 1969, change trickled even slower.
Smith had been a teacher and a coach at Gary District School, an all black institution, before the consolidation into Gary High School happened. With two West Virginia Class A championships under his belt, one in football and one in basketball, he felt certain he’d have a position in the newly consolidated school, coaching black students and white students alike to be their athletic and academic best. He was wrong.
“Segregation became a part of my life when I was born,” Smith states. “But integration started in 1965. It was good that integration came.”