James Skivring Smith

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Dr. James Skivring Smith
6th President of Liberia
In office
November 4, 1871 – January 1, 1872
Preceded by Edward James Roye
Succeeded by Joseph Jenkins Roberts
8th Vice President of Liberia
In office
January 3, 1870 – October 26, 1871
President Edward James Roye
Preceded by Joseph Gibson
Succeeded by Anthony W. Gardiner
4th Secretary of State
In office
President Stephen Allen Benson
Preceded by Daniel Bashiel Warner
Succeeded by Edward Wilmot Blyden
Personal details
Born February 26, 1825
Charleston, South Carolina, United States
Died 1892
Buchanan, Liberia
Political party True Whig
Alma mater Berkshire Medical Center

James Skivring Smith (February 26, 1825 – 1892) served as the 6th President of Liberia from 1871 to 1872. Prior to this, he served as the 8th Vice President of Liberia from 1870 to 1871 under President Edward James Roye and as Secretary of State from 1856 to 1860 in the cabinet of President Stephen Allen Benson.

Smith was born in Charleston, South Carolina on February 26, 1825, the fourth of seven children of free blacks Carlos and Catharine Smith. He and his family arrived in Liberia in 1833, and his parents died of malaria within one year of their arrival. After working with a white doctor of the American Colonization Society, Smith returned to the United States to study medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He transferred to the Berkshire Medical College in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, from which he received his medical degree in 1848. Smith was the first African American to receive a medical degree from an American college. He then returned to the newly independent Liberia, working for the ACS as a doctor.[1]

Smith served as Secretary of State from 1856 to 1860 and was later elected as a senator from Grand Bassa County from 1868 to 1870. In the 1869 presidential election, Smith was elected vice president under President Edward James Roye. The two were the first True Whig politicians to hold their respective offices. On October 26, 1871, President Roye was forcibly removed from office after unconstitutionally extending his term, leading Smith to serve the remaining two months of Roye's term as president. Smith's tenure as president remains the shortest in Liberian history. After stepping down as president, Smith returned to Buchanan and served as Superintendent of Grand Bassa County from 1874 to 1884.[2]

Smith's son James Skivring Smith, Jr. later became a successful politician in Liberia, also serving as Superintendent of Grand Bassa County and as vice president from 1930 to 1944.[1]


Political offices
Preceded by
James M. Priest
Vice President of Liberia
Succeeded by
Anthony W. Gardiner
Preceded by
Edward James Roye
President of Liberia
Succeeded by
Joseph Jenkins Roberts