Paulsboro, NJ − The NAACP mourns the loss of iconic civil rights activist Dr. Irene Hill-Smith, who transitioned on Wednesday at the age of 85.
Hill-Smith was a member of the Gloucester County NAACP and served as president from 1957 to 1963. She then served as the President of the New Jersey State Conference for 18 years from 1966 to 1984 and also served as the NAACP National Vice President for 12 years from 1967 to 1979.
Hill-Smith actively participated in the Civil Rights Movement, often facing ridicule and arduous events. According to the Gloucester County Times, Hill-Smith went undercover in a migrant workers’ camp to draw attention to laborers’ living conditions. She participated in demonstrations and spent many nights in jail as a result. Hill-Smith also served as a confidant to Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the height of the Civil Rights’ movement and as a frequent consultant to President Lyndon B. Johnson in his quest to craft the 1965 Civil Rights Act. She visited the White House during the Johnson administration and twice during the Carter Administration.
“Dr. Hill-Smith will be remembered for her bravery and dedication to the civil rights campaign in New Jersey and around the country,” stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock. “She was never one to shy away from a demonstration, as long as she believed that she was standing up for righteousness.”
“Dr. Hill Smith was on the front lines during the Civil Rights Movement,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “She believed in making a difference in people’s lives, and through her work she helped entire generations of African Americans. Her legacy will live on, and her efforts will be remembered.”
Later in life Hill-Smith served as chair of the Gloucester County Office for the Disabled, and she was a former commissioner on the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in Atlantic City. She had been living with her son, Michael, in Paulsboro.
On March 30, the Executive Committee of the Gloucester County National Association of the Advancement of Colored People Branch 2345 honored Ms. Hill-Smith with a resolution acknowledging her dedication to the NAACP and that the members “extend its deepest sympathy to the Hill-Smith family and acknowledges to them our immeasurable gratitude and deepest admiration for her many years of faithful service and numerous contributions to the National, State and local Civil Rights movement.”
Services will be 10 a.m. Friday, April 1 at Second Baptist Church. Burial will be in Gates of Heaven Cemetery, in East Greenwich Township.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.