'Fearless crusader' Maxine Smith laid to rest - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

'Fearless crusader' Maxine Smith laid to rest

(WMC-TV) - The song of Maxine Smith's life echoed through Metropolitan Baptist Church Saturday as leaders came from near and far to pay respects.

"Maxine didn't just push the door," Mayor A C Wharton said. "She knocked the doors open."

They spoke of Smith's unwavering fight for integration.

"She broke through doors long closed to African Americans and paved a way forward for the future of our nation," said Roslyn Brock, chairman of NAACP's National Board of Directors.

AutoZone founder Pitt Hyde called her "a fearless crusader and a courageous drum major for social justice."

Smith helped integrate then Memphis State University and opened the door for African Americans to visit the Memphis Zoo, see the Peabody ducks and eat at lunch counters.

"Our world is a better place today because of her and I wanted to experience today," said Memphis defense attorney Leslie Ballin.

Smith encouraged African Americans to run for office.

"She made a way for me and all black elected officials in this city," Shelby County commissioner Melvin Burgess said. "What a fighter."

"I wouldn't be here and so many other people wouldn't be here," Criminal Court Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett said.

Smith campaigned to promote local businesses.

"Things changed because she spoke up and she stood up," said local business owner Deidre Malone.

"They used to turn out Melrose High School on Black Mondays and having walked with Doctor King, I know Maxine," Municipal Court Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse said.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said Smith was "a great advisor."

"She was a national figure," Congressman Steve Cohen said. "She made Thomas Jefferson's words, "Life , liberty and the pursuit of happiness real."'

Maxine Smith was 83 years old.

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