Raleigh, NC December 1, 2000 – The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources has informed the African American Heritage Preservation Foundation, Inc., that its State Highway Historical Marker nomination for Reverend Dr. Owen Lun West Smith has been approved by the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Advisory Committee. In 1935, the General Assembly authorized the establishment of the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program. From that time forward, the program has been administered as a cooperative venture among state agencies. It is presently the joint responsibility of the Research Branch, Division of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, and Traffic Engineering Branch, Division of Highways, Department of Transportation.
The North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program is one of the oldest such programs in continuous operation in the United States. Also established by the 1935 enabling legislation was the Highway Historical Marker Advisory Committee, the group responsible for oversight of the program. The committee is composed of ten faculty members from four-year colleges and universities who are experts in one or more aspects of the state’s history. Over the years many of this century’s leading scholars of North Carolina history have served on the committee. Members are appointed by the secretary of the Department of Cultural Resources and serve five-year terms.
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. McKinley appointed Reverend Smith 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.
More information regarding Reverend Dr. Smith’s life will be published in a future 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.