Kelly Miller Smith was born in 1920 in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. He received his Bachelor of Divinity Degree from Morehouse College in 1942 and his Master of Divinity degree from Howard University in 1945. He was pastor of the Mount Heroden Baptist Church in Vicksburg, Mississippi from 1946 to 1951. In 1951, he left Mississippi for Nashville, Tennessee where he served as pastor of the First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill. Under his leadership, a new chuch building was completed in 1972 and an apartment complex for the elderly - the Kelly Miller Smith Towers - was constructed in 1980. As president of the Nashville chapter of the NAACP, he took a very active role in the civil rights movement in Nashville. He founded the Nashville Christian Leadership Council in 1958 which helped organize and support student sit-in demonstrations in the Nashville area. Reverend Smith also served on the executive board of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1955 until 1969. In 1969 he accepted the position of assistant dean of the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University, where he served until his death in 1984.
The bulk of Kelly Miller Smith's papers is comprised of his academic and organization files. This part of the collection includes Smith's writings on the responsibility of the Black Church to both the community and academic life, Smith's theological perceptions and his particular political vision as cleric and academician. In addition to his Vanderbilt office files, the collection also encompasses Smith's ministerial career, including his First Baptist Church activities while Assistant Dean of the Divinity School. The Vanderbilt Divinity School (VDS) records included in this collection are represented primarily by Smith's class materials, VDS-sponsored events, faculty communications and the Office of Black Church Relations. Other major organizations included here are the Afro-American Association, Association of Black Faculty and Administrators, Council on Human Relations, Faculty Senate, American Association of Theological Schools, American Baptist Churches in the USA, Black Community Forum, Interdominational Ministers Fellowship, Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Morehouse School of Religion, National Conference of Black Churchmen, Opportunities Industrialization Center, P.M. Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund, Society for the Study of Black Religion, and the World Council of Churches, Commission on Faith and Order. An extensive collection of Smith's personal notes on a wide variety of academic and theological subjects are among these records as is much of his correspodence.
A published manuscript register (22.1 MB - requires Acrobat Reader) of the Kelly Miller Smith Papers was published by the Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt University, in 1989. Since its publication, additional items have been added which has changed the box numbers listed in the register. A chart showing the changes in box numbers can be found here.
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