The Rest of the Story
Joseph E. Smith, Jr. wanted a boy for his second child. He expected his wife to have a second son. So he went ahead and gave him a boy's name, Clyde - just Clyde with no middle name. But Clyde wasn't a boy, Clyde was a girl. In January, I told you about Smith's river boat, The Clyde S., which he named for his daughter. This week, I'll tell you about what happened to Clyde Smith after she left Dublin.
Clyde was born on February 21, 1900 in Dublin. The only daughter one of the city's greatest business leaders, J.E. "Banjo" Smith, Jr., and his wife Caroline Isabella Blackshear, a descendant of General David Blackshear, the progenitor of one of Laurens County's most famous families, Clyde attended the public schools of the city until her graduation from Dublin High School.
Clyde enrolled at Wesleyan College in Macon, where her mother's namesake and grandmother, Isabella Maria Caroline Hamilton Blackshear, became the college's first student in the first institution of higher learning for women in the world.
During her senior year of 1920-21, Clyde received multiple honors from her classmates. She was elected president of the student body. Because of Clyde's involvement in a myriad of school activities, she was chosen by her peers as the college's most popular student. Just as she graduated, the boll weevil came in full force and killed the cotton crop in Laurens County. Clyde had not decided on her life's ambition, but when her father was financially ruined by the failure of his cotton businesses, she turned to teaching. "The boll weevil ruined cotton and that ruined father, and that made a very sorry teacher out of me," Smith remarked.
Clyde Smith graduated from Wesleyan and continued her education at Columbia University in New York. Miss Smith began her teaching career in Dublin. After a short term here, she went to teach in Middleburg, North Carolina at the recommendation of her brother Eldridge. Clyde returned to Dublin to teach for a brief time before she moved to Winter Haven, Florida for a year before once again moving, that time to Bradenton, Florida, where she taught for five years.
Clyde never had her heart in teaching. So, when the librarian at the Bradenton library asked her to substitute during two summers, Clyde decided it was time to change her career to something she liked to do.
After obtaining her Bachelor of Science Degree in Library Science from Emory University, Miss Smith returned to Bradenton, where she accepted the job as head librarian when it became vacant. When the Great Depression became even greater, Clyde was laid off. She returned to Georgia, where she was hired as the Head of the Circulation Department at the Washington Library in Macon. She served from 1930 to 1935. Clyde accepted an offer as the head librarian at the Hattiesburg Library in Mississippi, where she served until 1940. When the library board of the prestigious Olivia Raney Library in Raleigh, North Carolina offered her the position of head librarian, Clyde became the first professional librarian the library board ever hired. Clyde Smith would never have another job.
Clyde's mother came to live with her. They occupied a small apartment in the library building until her mother's death in 1964.
Clyde Smith, who had a sense of history and heritage ingrained in her, sought to build the Raney Library's collection of local history. Realizing the state library with its vast resources of historical materials was located just across the street, Smith began to build her own library's collection of materials on North Carolina history. Smith called for someone to step forward and write a history of Raleigh and Wake County, to meet the growing requests by local school children.
Clyde Smith saw the need for an adult reading room on the library's first floor and not at the top of a flight of steep stairs. She fought for programs to promote the reading of literature. Clyde was the driving force in establishing a bookmobile to carry books to the remotest areas of the county at least once a month. And, what made Clyde Smith enjoy coming to work was her hard-fought successes in expanding the library's facilities and programs to serve a vast number of patrons. Although Clyde Smith performed nearly every task when she first came to the old 0ne-room library, the humble librarian never took credit for her own accomplishments. Instead, she heaped praises on her board and her staff.
Acknowledging that, like most librarians, she did not have the time to read as much as she needed to, Clyde declared that she read mostly fiction works, because those were the kinds of books she was most often asked about. Refusing to give out a list of her favorite books, Smith did rank Gone With The Wind near the top of her favorites.
Miss Smith was known to all patrons as a librarian who enjoyed finding the answers to their questions no matter how unusual the question or what the answer was. Some questions weren't about books at all. Clyde even helped one couple name their newborn baby. She often told people what time it was or even what day of the week it was.
When Clyde Smith retired on New Year's Eve at the end of 1967, she was saluted as a librarian who combined her heart, mind, and spirit with grace, warmth, and eagerness. The Raleigh Times described the library as a "sacrosanct sanctuary where silence was the law and woe be the ambitious teenager who tripped up to the second floor to ask for some flagrant novel." Smith even opened the previously dubbed "naughty book case" to make those controversial books available to appropriate readers. Before Clyde's arrival, children were to be seen and not heard and adults were treated like older children, said Times writer N.D. Styron, who described Clyde Smith as "a breath of fresh air."
Clyde Smith never gave up on fighting for her library and the public's right to use the library to better themselves. Clyde Smith died at her home in Raleigh, North Carolina on August 15, 1983. She never married and is buried beside the parents who gave her the unusual name. The Smiths rest in eternal peace in the Blackshear family plot in Northview Cemetery.
And now you know that this young Dublin girl grew up to become one of the most beloved and respected librarians in the history of the capital city of North Carolina. Not bad for a girl named Clyde.