Bernard SmithBernard Smith, Jr. was born in Daytona Beach, FL, in the building which would eventually become the General Studies building for Bethune Cookman College; at the time, it was the area’s black hospital. His father had a close friendship with Mrs. Bethune, and she actually visited the family in the hospital after Mr. Smith’s birth. He had four sisters and three brothers, and his grandmother was Florida’s first licensed female doctor. Mr. Smith attended Bonner Elementary School and area high schools. He also attended Morehouse College, and received his graduate education at Florida A&M, prior to working in the insurance industry. Mr. Smith also served as a Daytona Beach City Commissioner.

He was good friends with Mrs. Bethune’s grandchildren and used to play with them on campus as a child. He also spent time on the Bethune Cookman campus as an adult and associated with Bethune Cookman students in their daily lives. He remembers Daytona Beach during segregation, and describes 2nd Avenue, and the area around Bethune Cookman as a thriving neighborhood, with a vibrant commercial center. Though he describes the African American community as being almost entirely separate from the white community in Daytona Beach, Mr. Smith attributes Mrs. Bethune’s presence in the area as being the driving force behind the town’s reputation as a place in which there was greater racial equality than in much of the South.

Mr. Smith also believes that Mrs. Bethune was the source of much of the sense of cohesion that developed between the school and the residents of the surrounding neighborhood. He remembers the changes which took place in the community as a result of Urban Renewal and integration, and though he states the changes were made with mostly good intentions, they had negative effects on the community as a whole, and resulted in the downfall of the neighborhood, and a loss of the sense of unity within the African American population of Daytona Beach.

Text Only Transcript Selections:

Mrs. Bethune was like family

“If you need to know the ties to Mrs. Bethune, we were pretty much like a family here in Daytona. My father would go by and see Mrs. Bethune every day; his office was a block away, so he would stop by on his way home. So, they were very, very close. As a matter of fact, the community was closer then.”

Bethune Cookman College

“It was a community college. That’s exactly what it was: a community. You knew all the professors, even though I didn’t attend Bethune, I knew all the professors, I knew pretty much everyone who was employed here. And the people who were employed here took an active role in the community. So, they became politicians, they were active in the school board... so it’s a whole lot of interaction between the college and the community.”

BCU and the community

“That’s physical. You can jump over a gate. It’s a mentality that has evolved that separates the community from the city. Like I said, when I grew up here, there was no gate…”

Urban renewal

“When urban renewal came… what urban renewal did was to tear down the houses, but when you tear down the houses, the people have to do what? Relocate. So, now there are no people to come to the businesses that are on the avenue, so that means the businesses sooner or late suffered, and went out of business. But it was a direct result of urban renewal.”

Bethune’s vision

“If you got a school built on a garbage dump, then anything beyond that is possible. You know, you all realize you’re on a garbage dump. That’s got to show you that this is some serious stuff here. And if you take it… during the time she started, I mean, you got people who didn’t have anything but the desire to want to learn.”

Mrs. Bethune

“This is my school. I mean, I grew up on this campus. I used to play in Dr. Bethune’s yard. You know, her grandson and I are partners; we talk every week. So, I mean, I knew her like I knew my mother almost.”


“Anything that the community can get an opportunity to come on campus for is good, because then the kids can say “Well, I can do that”. There are some kids who didn’t know where Bethune Cookman was for a period of time…”


“If you could get more participation from the alumni, this whole institution would be thriving.”

Black Hospital

“…matter of fact I was born in you all’s General Studies building. That was the hospital; it was the first black hospital, and I was born in that building. When I was born in Daytona you couldn’t be born in Halifax (Hospital), not if you were a person of color.”

Separation between School and Community

“During that time the community and the city were almost as one, not like it is now. We didn’t have a fence around Bethune-Cookman, so people can access the school easily. Now it’s hard for people of the community to gain access to the information that you beautiful students have, because there’s no communication. […] Every Sunday the community was invited to campus, […] and she would have a program where she would highlight the kids from the community dance and plays. She would also highlight the parents and the teachers from the elementary school. So, it was a good community uplifting for both the faculty of Bethune, and the students at Bethune, and the community… and that’s something we don’t have anymore.”

Daytona and Civil Rights

“Here in Daytona we didn't have a whole lot of civil rights issues as other cities did, because Dr. Bethune was here, and a lot things what the other cities were fighting for we already had… like we had Black policemen and Black bus drivers. All that stuff they had, Mrs. Bethune had back in the early 40s and 50s. So Daytona was really… what a lot of people were fighting to get, Daytona had had for years.”

Mrs. Bethune and Civil Rights

“…there was only one city more advanced in Florida where it came to civil rights and equal rights, and that was Miami. So Daytona was well recognized throughout the state, as well the nation, mainly because of Dr. Bethune…”

Respect for Dr. Bethune

“…one day when the men stopped and took off their hats to salute Dr. Bethune, which they did every day […] but the guy who was a supervisor was a white guy. He told them they better stop it and get back to work. Well, by the time he got back to his office at city hall he was fired, and that shows you how not only the black community but the white community respected her. She was highly respected.”

Segregation and Lynching

“…we did not need any outside support. Everybody took care of their own. When I went to high school, I had never had a white teacher. I had never seen a white teacher until I got to college, and so the community was separated. You did not come in contact with white people unless you went downtown; it was not necessary. We didn't miss anything, because we had everything we needed. We couldn't go to that beach, but we had a beach to go to. We couldn't go to that swimming pool, but we had a pool to go to. We didn't miss anything […] s I mean everybody got along. Wasn't no big thing; wasn't nobody hanging one another. Now I did have a family member who got hung. My grandmother was the first black doctor in the state of Florida […] but my grandmother’s brother was lynched in Ocala, for not getting out of the way of a white woman on the sidewalk. They were walking down the sidewalk and he didn't… during that time, a black man would step off the sidewalk to the curb, [...] and he refused to do it. They caught him and lynched him downtown.”

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