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Family of Thelma DeForrest Brown Smith


Thelma Brown Smith

1926 – 2003


Funeral services for Thelma DeForrest Brown Smith, 77, of Bay City, a long time educator and community leader will be held on Thursday, June 26, at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church, Bay City, Texas, the Rev. Mike Zimmerman, pastor, the Rev. L.C. Cunningham, Jr., officiant. Burial will follow at Eastview Cemetery.

Visitation will be held Wednesday, June 25 from 3 until 9 p.m. in the funeral home chapel.

She was born in the Furber Community, Texas, Friday, April 23, 1926 to Johnson Brown and Adline Mills Brown and passed away Saturday, June 21, 2003 in Lake Jackson, Texas.

She completed high school at A.G. Hilliard High School. Thelma received a Bachelor and Masters’ Degree in Physical Education from Prairie View A & M University. She also furthered her studies at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville and Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas.

Her 38 years of teaching included Newton ISD, A.G. Hilliard High School and McAllister Middle School, Bay City, Texas. During her Hilliard High School years, she coached the girl’s basketball and track teams. Both teams won State Championships.

She was a member of the Texas State Retired Teachers’ Association, A Diamond Life member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Founder of the Bay City Alumnae Chapter, Daughters In Progress Club, Matagorda African American Historical Society, Heroines Of Jericho, Matagorda County Museum Association, Archives Chairman, Chairman of the permanent exhibit “Plantations Along Caney Creek,” Matagorda County Historical Commission, Historical Marker Committee, Certified Local Government, Matagorda County Genealogical Society, Matagorda County Historical Society, Bay City Chamber Of Commerce and Agriculture Woman of The Year, Matagorda County Library Volunteer. Hilliard High School Hall of Fame Inductee of 1997, Texas African American Coaches Association Hall Of Honor 1994, Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame 1997 and Matagorda County Museum Volunteer of the Year of 2002.

She is survived by: her husband, Lincoln H. Smith; her daughter, Patricia Ann Smith Newsome; three sisters, one brother and one brother-in-law.

Active pallbearers will be Alyouse Woods, Curtland, Andrew Woods, Anthony Woods, George Woods, Shawn Woods, Clarence Johnson, Ronald Johnson and the Rev. Kenneth Hall.

Arrangements are with Duncan-Roberts Funeral Home, Bay City, Texas.


The Bay City Tribune, June 25, 2003


County Loses A Prominent Leader

         By William T. Wood, Bay City Tribune, June 25, 2003


Thelma Smith, who many considered the definitive expert on Matagorda County’s African-American history, died Saturday in Lake Jackson after a battle with cancer. Smith was active in the community. She was a retired educator and was named 2002 Volunteer of the Year this year by the Matagorda County Museum Board of Directors.


“Thelma was the driving force behind the Black History exhibits at the museum every February,” said friend and colleague Mary Belle Ingram.


Smith and Ingram met in 1969 when both were teachers at McAllister Junior High in Bay City. They worked together many years as museum volunteers and as Matagorda County Historical Commission members.


Most recently, they collaborated on a museum exhibit called, “Plantations Along the Caney,” in which they traced the lives of slaves by identifying and researching seven African-American churches that serve descendants of those slave families today. “She wanted to recognize the contributions those people made to the county’s history and help find their descendants,” Ingram said. The project is massive in scope and the women were still doing their research when Smith fell ill.


Ingram said she will carry on the work to honor her friend, but hopes others will step forward to help complete the project.


Smith was a woman of many accomplishments and a tireless community activist.


After graduating from Hilliard High School, she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physical education from Prairie View A&M University.


A highly successful basketball and track coach, she was later inducted into the Hilliard High School Hall of Fame, Texas African-American Coaches Association Hall of Honor and the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame.


She also was honored as the Woman of the Year by the Bay City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.


“She will be greatly missed,” said Ingram. She did a lot for this community.”


Mary Belle Ingram’s Tribute to Thelma Smith – June 26, 2003:


Thanks be to God for the life of Thelma Deforrest Brown Smith, my dear friend and coworker for the past 35 years who has inspired and taught me so much. First, as a fellow teacher, and in these latter years joining her in a pilgrimage into the discovery of a deep and rich history of churches, sites and people in this wonderful Matagorda County.


As I have worked so closely with Thelma, this quotation comes to mind: “When work commitment and pleasure all become one and you reach the deep well within where passion lives, nothing is impossible.”


And that was Thelma – nothing was impossible as we traveled places throughout this county to gather and record the history of you, the people, and all those who have come before you. She loved her church and her family. She was proud of her heritage and she has left a gift for all of us today and to future generations.


Through hours of research she was responsible in gathering the history and writing the final narrative toward 10 State Historical Markers for this county and most were black churches dating back to the 1860s and 70s. And they are throughout this county - Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church at Markham, Bethel Baptist and Mother Zion here in Bay City, and those along Caney Creek - Grove Hill Baptist Church in Pledger, Shiloh Missionary Baptist in Cedar Lane, Vine Grove Christian in Live Oak Community, First Berean Baptist Church on Buckner’s Prairie. In addition she assisted with the markers for the communities of Clemville, Ashby and Wilson Creek. She was responsible for the Eastview Cemetery historical marker.


What a legacy she has left us and what a challenge before us to complete the work she began to record this rich history of people who help to make this county what it is today.


Oak Leaves Editor’s Note: Thelma Smith joined the Matagorda County Genealogical Society in 1989 and at once became an active member. She served as historian (1990-93), recording secretary (1993-97), and first vice-president/programs chairman (1998-2001). Jean and Gordon Richardson began the tradition of having a Black History program in February of 1994. From 1995-2003, Thelma, continuing the tradition, coordinated speakers for the February programs, which recognized early Matagorda County African-American families. Her knowledge and expertise of Matagorda County African-American history will not be equaled. She will be missed as a co-worker, but especially a friend.

Thelma D. Brown Family

by Thelma D. Smith

Thelma DeForrest Brown was the second child of Johnson and Adeline Brown. She was born in Furber a few hundred yards from the rails used to ship cattle to Kansas City and Chicago markets. Her father, paternal grandfather, and several uncles were cowboys and farmers for V. L. LeTulle, and her great-grandfather, Cyrus Brown, was a wrangler who rode with and herded cattle for Shanghai Pierce.

Thelma D. Brown's ancestors first appeared in Matagorda County in the early 1850s. Her great-grandfather, Cyrus Brown (March 1, 1852 - 1913) was a slave on the Duncan Plantation., later known as Pierce Ranch. He married Jennie Dennis (June 6, 1859 - 1930) who was a slave on a plantation in the Live Oak community. They were the parents of: Large, William Sam, Irvin, Silas, Ransom and Ida Carrie. Cyrus and Jennie are buried in the Mt. Olivet Cemetery near Ashwood.

Cyrus and Jennie's son, Irvin, was born on May 25, 1878 near Van Vleck. At that time the family lived on land purchased from the O'Conner Plantation. Irvin married Winnie Amey on August 17, 1899. Winnie did at the birth of their only child, Sam, and is buried in Rockwest [Union Baptist Church-Ashwood] Cemetery.

Irvin married second Mary Jane Miller (August 9, 1887 - January 2, 1962) in December, 1902. Mary Jane was born on Burns' Plantation to Johnson Miller and Sylvia Foster Miller. Johnson Miller (September 17, 1856 - November 22, 1937) was born on Burr Plantation in Wharton County, and in his adult years was the chuck wagon cook for cattle drives and was also a sugar cane and tobacco grower in the Ashwood area. He married Sylvia Foster (June 12, 1860 - February 2, 1931) who was born on the Duncan Plantation, and was separated from her mother and brother when she was about two or three years old. Sylvia became a mid-wife in later years. Johnson Miller and Sylvia Foster Miller were the parents of two children, Mary Jane and Tom. Both Johnson and Sylvia are buried in Ashwood's Rockwest Cemetery.

Irvin Brown and Mary Jane Miller Brown were the parents of: Johnson, Fred, Henry, Mack, Elliott, William , Tom "T. J." (a circuit rodeo champion broc rider), Mary, Alice, Elnora, Ida and Sylvia. Irvin is buried is buried in Markham and Mary Jane is buried in Eastview Cemetery. Irvin and Mary Jane's oldest son Johnson (October 7, 1903) was born on the former Burns Plantation, and was a long-time resident of Matagorda County. He was a foreman and trail boss for V. L. LeTulle. He later resided in Lubbock, Texas. Johnson married Adline Mills on October 7, 1922. Adline (April 12, 1908 - April 21, 1960) was born in the Caney Creek Settlement near the Bowie Plantation area, the tenth child of Abe Mills and Lillie Griggs Mills. Abe Mills (1864-June 13, 1922) was born on Thompson Settlement near Gainesmore, and was a blacksmith by trade. His wife, Lillie Griggs (December 25, 1872 - April 14, 1943) was born on Bowie Plantation. Both are buried in Eastview Cemetery. Their children were: Mamie, Nellie, Adline, Rose, Amey, Kelly, Oscar, Ben, Wilbert, Abe Jr., and Nicholas.

Johnson and Adline's children were: Mamie, Verrie, Bessie, Nellie, Johnson Jr., and Thelma.

Thelma D. Brown attended Prairie View A&M University where she received a Master of Science degree and then taught school. She also earned post graduate credits from Wharton County Junior College, Trinity University, and Sam Houston State University. She was featured in the 1976 edition of Outstanding Leaders in Elementary and Secondary Education.

While she was attending Prairie View A&M, Thelma met Lincoln H. Smith; they were married on November 22, 1951. They were the parents of one child, Patricia Ann "Pat." Lincoln was retired from the United States Army as Master Sergeant after twenty-four years of duty in the Asiatic and European theaters. Among his awards were the Purple Heart, The United Nations Combat Star, and the Bronze Star for Bravery.

Historic Matagorda County, Volume II, pages 59-60

Lincoln H. Smith
July 4, 1928 – May 2, 2007

Funeral services for (Ret.) Master Sergeant Lincoln H. Smith, 78, of Bay City, will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, May 11, 2007 at the Duncan-Roberts Funeral Home chapel, with his nephew, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Hall of Los Angeles, California, eulogist. Burial will follow at Eastview Cemetery.

Visitation will be from 2 until 8 p.m. Thursday at the chapel.

He was born in Anderson County, Tucker, Texas, on July 4, 1928, to Alonzo Smith and Gerzie Colley Smith, and passed away May 2, 2007, in San Antonio, Texas.

Survivors include a daughter, Patricia Smith Newsome, and two sisters, Nancy Arthur and Annette Robbins. Also a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives and many friends. He was preceded in death by his wife, Thelma D. Brown Smith, June 21, 2003.

Arrangements are with Duncan-Roberts Funeral Home, Bay City, Texas.

Bay City Tribune, May 9, 2007

Photos courtesy of Tresmond Scott


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Mar. 22, 2013
Mar. 22, 2013