Prominent Chicago Activist Rev. J.C. Smith Dies

Rev. J.C. Smith, a key player in the Montgomery Bus boycotts, passed away on October 12th at his home in Harvey, IL.

Luckily, for many would-be bus riders who participated in the Montgomery Bus boycotts in Alabama in 1955, Rev. Smith had a new car, one that he was willing to use to give out rides.

When asked about his role in the boycott Smith stated that, “I was fortunate at that time to have a car so they suggested to us, if you have transportation, than give someone a ride,” according to WGN.

Smith and many others who helped by giving rides during the protest is one of the factors that made the boycott successful. Thirteen months after the Montgomery bus boycott, segregated buses became unconstitutional.

We have Rev J.C. smith, and many others to thank for that, namely 40,000 would-be commuters who stopped riding the bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

Rev J.C. Smith was lucky to have been able to witness change in his lifetime. According to the Chicago SunTimes, he was one of the first participants in the Montgomery Boycott to go back to riding public transportation, proudly taking a seat at the front of the bus.

The son of sharecroppers Eliza and J.C. Smith “didn’t know it felt so good” to sit up at the front of the bus, prior to the protests, according to the SunTimes.

Rev. Smith was a U.S. soldier, having fought in the Korean War in Okinawa. He moved to Chicago and worked as a carpenter before becoming an ordained minister in 1964.

He is survived by his wife, children, and a myriad of grandchildren, whom he instructed to “study hard, and pray much.”

A viewing for Rev J.C. Smith is scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Bethlehem Temple Missionary Baptist Church, 20 E. 147th St., in Harvey. A final viewing is planned from 9 a.m. Thursday until the start of his funeral at 11 a.m.

Photo: WGN still image