James Skivring Smith

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James Skivring Smith
SkivringSmith.jpg
Superintendent of Grand Bassa County
In office
1874–1884
6th President of Liberia
In office
November 4, 1871 – January 1, 1872
Preceded byEdward James Roye
Succeeded byJoseph Jenkins Roberts
8th Vice President of Liberia
In office
January 3, 1870 – October 26, 1871
PresidentEdward James Roye
Preceded byJoseph Gibson
Succeeded byAnthony W. Gardiner
4th Secretary of State of Liberia
In office
1856–1860
PresidentStephen Allen Benson
Preceded byDaniel Bashiel Warner
Succeeded byEdward Wilmot Blyden
Member of the Senate of Liberia
from Grand Bassa County
In office
1868–1869
In office
1855–1863
Personal details
BornFebruary 26, 1825
Charleston, South Carolina, United States
Died1892
Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, Liberia
Political partyTrue Whig
ChildrenJames Skivring Smith Jr.
ParentsCarlos & Catharine Smith
EducationUniversity of Vermont College of Medicine (transferred)
Berkshire Medical College (MD)
ProfessionPhysician

James Skivring Smith (February 26, 1825 – 1892) was a Liberian politician who 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. He was a member of the True Whig Party.

Smith was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1825 to a family of free blacks. He arrived with his family in Liberia in 1833, and his parents died of malaria within a year. As a young man, he trained under Dr. James W. Lugenbeel, a medical doctor of the American Colonization Society. He then returned to the United States to study medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He transferred to Berkshire Medical College in Massachusetts, graduating with his medical degree in 1848. He was the second African American to receive a Doctor of Medicine from an American medical school, after David J. Peck a year earlier. After graduating, he returned to the newly independent Liberia to work as a physician.

In 1855, Smith was elected to the Senate, representing Grand Bassa County. From 1856 to 1860, he was Secretary of State under President Stephen Allen Benson. In the 1869 presidential election, Smith was elected Vice President alongside President Edward James Roye. He and Roye were the first True Whig politicians to hold their respective offices. In 1871, after Roye was forced out of office, Smith served as president for the remainder of Roye's term. His two-month president remains the shortest in Liberian history. At the end of his presidential term, Smith returned home to Buchanan, and served as Superintendent of Grand Bassa County from 1874 to 1884. His son James Skivring Smith Jr. went on to serve as Vice President from 1930 to 1944.

Early life and education[edit]

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.[1] He was the second African American to graduate from a medical school in the United States, after David J. Peck, who graduated from Rush Medical College in 1847.[2] He then returned to the newly independent Liberia, working for the ACS as a doctor.[1]

Politics[edit]

Smith served as Secretary of State from 1856 to 1860 and was later elected as a senator from Grand Bassa County from 1868 to 1869. 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.[3] Studies have shown that more schools in Liberia don't mention his name as president of Liberia. Probably, the reason for this is that his name has been left out by many Liberian writers including the writers of those "beginner books" that are used primarily for nursery kids. For this reason, some Liberians believe that George M. Weah[4][better source needed] is the twenty-fourth president[5][better source needed] of Liberia. But actually George M. Weah is the twenty-five president of Liberia[6][better source needed].

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]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Brown, Alphonso (2008). A Gullah Guide to Charleston: Walking Through Black History. The History Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-59629-392-2.
  2. ^ Ward, Thomas J. (2003). Black physicians in the Jim Crow South. University of Arkansas Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-61075-072-1. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  3. ^ Library of Congress website
  4. ^ "George Weah - Wikipedia". en.m.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  5. ^ "Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - Wikipedia". en.m.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  6. ^ "President of Liberia - Wikipedia". en.m.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
Political offices
Preceded by
James M. Priest
Vice President of Liberia
1870–1871
Succeeded by
Anthony W. Gardiner
Preceded by
Edward James Roye
President of Liberia
1871–1872
Succeeded by
Joseph Jenkins Roberts