Vanderbilt University Honors Its First African American Administrator

Kelly-Miller-SmithVanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, has announced that it is naming its newest residence hall in honor of Kelly Miller Smith, who served as assistant dean at the Vanderbilt Divinity School from 1969 until his death in 1984. He was the first African American administrator at the university.

Smith was a native of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. He began college at Tennessee State University but completed his bachelor’s degree at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He then earned a divinity degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Smith then became pastor of a church in Vicksburg, Mississippi. During this period he served as chair of the department of religion at Natchez College. In 1951, he became head of the First Baptist Church in Nashville. He served as president of the local chapter of the NAACP and founded the Nashville Christian Leadership Council. Smith was a leader in the Nashville civil rights movement.

Smith was the author of Social Crisis Preaching (Mercer University Press, 1984) based on the Lyman Beecher Lecture Series held at Yale University.

Related Articles


  1. Dr. Kelly Miller Smith was my professor, my mentor, and my friend while I was a student at the Vanderbilt Divinity School (1979-1982). He was a champion for social justice and urged his students to stand up for the plight of all oppressed people around the world. This is a great honor for his legacy and for his family at Vanderbilt University.

  2. A great honor long over due to a well deserving Africa American civil rights leader friend and neighbor. Our family, the family of the late Bishop Ernest T. Dixon, Jr., were neighbors of the Kelly Miller Smith family during the 1960s. Reverend provided outstanding leadership during the turbulent days of the Fisk University sit-in demonstration and the rejection of a friend and fellow United Methodist minister the Reverend James Lawson to the Vanderbilt Divinity School. Thank you Reverend Smith for moral courage and Christian Integrity.

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Getty Images to Preserve Digital Photo Archives at Delaware State University

Currently, Delaware State University's photo archives contain thousands of photographs taken over the course of the university's 133 year history. Thanks to a new partnership with Getty Images, those images will be digitized and made available on

Porché Spence Recognized for Outstanding Commitment to Advancing Diversity in Ecology

Dr. Spence currently serves as an assistant professor of environmental studies at North Carolina A&T State University. Throughout her career, she has developed several educational programs geared towards introducing students of color to environmental science fields.

Prairie View A&M University Establishes “Agletics” Program for Student-Athlete Nutrition Research

The "Agletics" initiative leverages agriculture and nutrition studies into direct support for the university's student athletes. he research program will provide undergraduate students in nutrition with the opportunity to study the effect of nutrition on enhancing athletic performance.

Five Black Leaders Appointed to Administrative Positions in Higher Education

Here is this week’s roundup of African Americans who have been appointed to new administrative positions at colleges and universities throughout the United States. If you have news for our appointments section, please email the information to

Featured Jobs