A New Orleans native and resident of Lowell for 50 years, with her unforgettable voice and enviable style, Lura Smith has forged an indelible legacy. Among her most precious accomplishments is her collaboration with the Middlesex Community College Foundation to create the Lura Smith Fund. Established in 1999, the fund provides scholarship opportunities, programs, and events that reflect the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lura Smith also led the 2003 street-naming initiative for “Martin Luther King, Jr. Way” in Lowell. Lura recalls with pride her years of growing up in a loving home and vibrant community that withstood the trying forces of racial segregation of the 50s and 60s. Today, she carries a torch, passed forward to her, so that others might find their way towards peace and reconciliation.
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Lura Smith on the Origins of Martin Luther King Day in Lowell.
“Eighteen years ago, my husband and I said, you know, we’ve been living in Lowell for a long time. My husband, myself and our two sons, as an African American family, we just wanted to make certain that we were doing something that spoke to that which we believe in. So we made a decision to invest the money and to do a Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. That was at the Nesmith House back in 1999.”
About 75 people attended the first free event to honor Dr. King. Two important attendees were Dr. Carole Cowan, who recently retired as the President of Middlesex Community College, and George Duncan, founder and Chair of Enterprise Bank and Trust. Both encouraged Smith to further promote the event and pledged to support it. This was to become the Lura Smith Fund at the Middlesex Community College Foundation.
“We felt that those who did accept the invitation early on understood that this was about fully embracing Dr. King’s legacy,” remembered Smith. “Much to our surprise, these people didn’t just show up but were asking us, ‘who do I write my check out to? I want to contribute. I want to feel like I’m doing something.’”
Dr. Cowan said to me, ‘Lura, this is wonderful. I had no idea this is what this event was going to be. Now it’s time for us to implement this.’ Another earlier contributor she recalls was Duncan of Enterprise Bank. Duncan invited Smith “over for coffee.” After attending an early event, Duncan and the bank became generous financial supporters.
Since 2000, the Smith Fund and MCC Foundation has become a great asset to many students hoping to pursue their dreams in terms of education and career.
“Dr. King gave us all the words and marching orders,” says Smith. “The event is about the mingling, the fellowship, about building the community and human spirit across the lines.”
With respect to Martin Luther King, Junior and the ideals well represented by Lura Smith, attending the King celebration gives prospective to an important part of American history. Given recent local and national events, it presents opportunity for important dialogue. A full interview with Lura Smith should be published within the next few weeks.
An earlier and moving profile of Lura was written by Nancye Tuttle of the Lowell Sun.