Rev. George Walker Smith

Reverend George Walker Smith has been breaking barriers in San Diego since 1963. He is a firm believer that a leader’s role is to, “move others to make changes that are necessary and right.” In 1963, Reverend Smith led a successful effort to change school board elections in San Diego to allow for more equitable representation. Prior to 1963, San Diego School Board Members were elected at large, which resulted in the underrepresentation of Southeastern San Diego and the African American and Latino communities. Reverend Smith and others formed the Citizens Study Committee of the Board of Education, which advocated for the shifting of election policy from at-large elections to a district-based election system. As the first District E representative, Reverend Smith’s election to the San Diego School Board made him the first African American to hold public office in San Diego. From 1963-1979, Reverend Smith served four terms on the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education and led the board seven times as president or vice-president. Reverend Smith also advocated for a change in the employment practices of the San Diego Unified School District. In a system in which many schools served student populations that were 75% or more African American and/or Latino, there were few African American and Latino teachers and no African American or Latino administrators. Reverend Smith campaigned for more inclusive staffing which led to the employment of almost 800 African American and Latino teachers by the end of Reverend Smith’s term. With the intervention of the United States Office of Education and the Superior Court, Reverend Smith was able to overcome board opposition and establish the Voluntary Ethnic Enrollment and Magnet programs to help eliminate racial imbalance in San Diego schools.   On a national level, Reverend Smith served as president of the Council of Great City Schools in 1972 and president of the National School Board Association in 1976. He was a member of the White House Conference on Children and Youth, the White House Committee on Education and the Arts, the Appeal Board of the National Council for Teacher Accreditation, and the National Advisory Commission on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. In 1989, Reverend Smith co-founded the Innovative Preschool Project, subsequently establishing the School of Success, now the McGill School of Success Kindergarten Charter. He also served in leadership roles on the California School Board Association, The Board of Trustees of San Diego Community College District, the California Junior College Association Committee on Student Personnel, and the Overseers Advisory Board of the University of California. Reverend George Walker Smith overcame intolerance and opposition to lead the way toward equal education opportunities for all students in San Diego County and beyond. Thus, Reverend George Walker Smith truly is a “Remarkable Leader in Education.”