Benjamin Hooks, Jr. looks back on the life of Vasco Smith - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Benjamin Hooks, Jr. looks back on the life of Vasco Smith

Vasco and Maxine Smith Vasco and Maxine Smith

By Nick Kenney - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A civil rights leader was remembered Tuesday for his work across the Mid-South.

Former Shelby County Commissioner Vasco Smith's death was announced Monday by Mayor A C Wharton. Smith, a member of the Commission for more than 20 years, was the husband of Maxine Smith.

Tuesday, the Reverend Benjamin Hooks, Jr. was one of many grieving for Smith.

"There's no way to explain in a few minutes, the impact that Vasco had on this town," Hooks said.

The pair met in 1941 at LeMoyne College, and stayed friends up until Monday, the day Smith died.

"He loved what we call Louis Roth, R-O-T-H suits," Hooks said. "They're very, very elegant suits and he must've had 20 or more of them."

A sharp dresser, Smith was also a civil rights juggernaut.

"If there ever was a warrior for justice in this nation, Vasco Smith would be in that number," Hooks said.

Vasco was known as the last man to see Medgar Evers before he died, and served on the Shelby County Commission over parts of three decades.  According to Hooks, Smith was afraid of nothing.

"One day at a meeting somebody said, 'Vasco if you do this and so they're coming after you.' He said, 'By God let them come,'" Hooks said.  "And he meant if it was right, he was going to stand for it."

Even into his eighties, Smith kept socially active.  Hooks said he'll miss spending time with his friend.

"The world will be poorer because Vasco is gone, but thank god he made his contributions," he said.

Hooks last saw Smith at a funeral less than two weeks ago, and at that time, he was still healthy enough to drive.  Hooks said that was two days before Smith was admitted into a hospital.

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