Remembering a Legend, Bobbie Smith

By Dele C. Ladejobi, Long Beach City College

Bobbie Smith (née Bobbie Jean Davis) was born and raised in Mississippi, United States. She attended grade school in Mississippi during the trials of segregation era and experienced the harsh discrimination of Jim Crow laws. She received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in religious education from Eureka College and a master's degree in Library Science from the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana. Bobbie was married to her high school sweetheart, Herbert (“Herb”) Smith,” a famous basketball player on the Harlem Globetrotters for 35 years and they had two children.  

Bobbie Smith

Bobbie and her family moved to California in 1965 in the midst of the Watts Riots. In the late 1960s, she was hired as the Audio-Visual Department librarian at LBCC. She was the first African American librarian to be employed at LBCC. She previously worked in the Los Angeles County Library system in their audiovisual department. Bobbie was successful in raising the stature of the LBCC Audiovisual Department at a time when technology was becoming more important in education. Under her guidance, the department was eventually elevated to the status of Media Services Department, and she served as its director for several years prior to being elected Library Department Head. She served in that capacity until her retirement in 1992.
During her tenure as librarian, Bobbie served on numerous college committees, and she was active in both state and national library organizations.  She achieved many noteworthy accomplishments, such as, the first African American to be elected the Academic Senate President where she served multiple terms; and the first African American to serve as the Faculty Union President. She was also responsible for the introduction of automation and computer use in the LBCC libraries.

In 1988 she became the first African American elected to the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education and served four terms as President. In this capacity, she facilitated the restructure and reform of the schools in her district. Bobbie made a positive mark on Long Beach local history in 2014, when the former Peter Burnett Elementary School was renamed in her honor in recognition of her role, impact and contributions to the community. This event was important and meaningful because the elementary school shed its namesake from a racist, White supremacist California governor and slaveholder to claim a new forward-looking identity in which students could now take pride. According to Bobbie, this accomplishment was “a lifetime achievement” and the “GEOT – Grammy, Emmy, Oscar, Tony award all rolled into one.

Bobbie is fondly remembered for her physical beauty, charm, wit, humor, and charisma. She was so elegant and had a distinguished aura about her. Bobbie was an incredible mentor, multi-talented and creative. She had amazing compassion and empathy and was extremely generous and supportive.

Bobbie passed away in California on July 20, 2022 at the age of 90.

To learn more about Bobbie:

  • Herbert Smith (1931-1991)”. Find a Grave Memorial (Online) November 16, 1991. Accessed August 10, 2022. 
  • LBUSD News. “Paying Tribute to Dr. King.” (Online) January 21, 2016. Accessed August 10, 2022. 
  • LBUSD News. “Remembering Bobbie Smith.” (Online) July 21,2022. Accessed August 10, 2022. 
  • LBUSD News. “Smith School Celebrates Its New Name” (Online) December 19, 2014. Accessed August 10, 2022. 
  • Wilkin, Binnie Tate. “Bobbie Smith: Former Coordinator of Libraries Long Beach City College and Recently Retired Member and President Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education.” In African American Librarians in the Far West: Pioneers and Trailblazers, 221–28. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2006.