In October 2000, The Foundation submitted a proposal to the North Carolina Highway Historic Marker Program to consider a Historic State Highway Marker for Reverend Owen Lun West Smith, D.D. in Wilson, North Carolina. Reverend Dr. Smith's accomplishments throughout his life merit recognition and importance in our American history and especially in the State of North Carolina.
As a native born North Carolinian that overcame the hardships of being enslaved, Reverend Dr. Owen Lun West Smith pursued an education that led to his success as a noted African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion minister, who established many A.M.E. Zion churches throughout the State of North Carolina, to his appointment as Minister Resident and Consul General to the Republic of Liberia in 1898.
The North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Advisory Committee approved this proposal on December 1, 2000. On September 16, 2001, the St. John A.M.E. Zion Church in Wilson, North Carolina held the dedication ceremony in honor of Reverend Dr. Owen Lun West Smith.
Owen L. W. Smith was born into slavery May 18, 1851, in Giddensville, Sampson County, North Carolina to Ollin Smith and Maria Hicks. By the age of twenty, Mr. Smith relocated to Pickens County, South Carolina to teach school. In 1873, Governor F. J. Moses appointed Owen L. W. Smith magistrate. Although well prepared for the responsibilities of this appointment, he began to study law and secured a State Scholarship and entered the University of South Carolina, 1874 -1876.
Mr.Smith's known religious interests began in 1880 when he converted at a camp meeting in Whiteville, North Carolina and joined the A.M.E. Zion Church. By February 1881, Owen L. W. Smith obtained a local preacher's license from Whiteville and entered the North Carolina Conference. He was also ordained local deacon at Whiteville in April 1881.
In December 1883, Reverend received elder's orders at Raleigh, North Carolina and pastored the Stantonburg, Magnolia, Elizabethtown, and Ingold Circuits, and Kinston and Tarboro Stations in the North Carolina Conference with high praise. Reverend Smith built three churches on the Magnolia Circuit, four on the Ingold Circuit, three on the Speight's Bridge Circuit and Trinity Church in Wilson, North Carolina. As a result of his tremendous accomplishments, President William F. appointed Reverend Smith. McKinley to serve as the Minister Resident and Consul General and to serve in the capacity of presiding elder of the A.M.E. Zion Church Mission work in Africa.
For more information regarding Reverend Dr. Smith's life, refer to Volume 20, Number 1 issue of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society's (AAHGS) Journal, entitled, "From Minister to Minister Resident and General Consul."
The US Department of State records, which are located in the National Archives and Records Administration, were instrumental in the nomination of this Highway Historical Marker in honor of Reverend Dr. Owen Lun West Smith and serve as an invaluable resource tool for genealogical and historical information.