William Walter Smith

Smith, William Walter

William Walter Smith was born in Broadlands. He was the son of George and Mary Oglesby Gaines Smith. George Smith, formerly enslaved, was a farmer in Broadlands. William graduated from high school in Homer, Illinois.

In 1900, William W. Smith became the first African American graduate of the University of Illinois. He earned an A.B. and B.S. in Literature and Arts, along with receiving his Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering in 1907. He was the first editor of the Illini newspaper, now known as The Daily Illini, a title he upheld during 1899 and 1900. He was also a member of the football team, the Republican Club, the rifle team, the Philomathean Literary Society, and was a Hatchet orator. While a student at the university, Smith proposed to the University President that there should be a bookstore on the corner of Wright and Green Streets so that students traveling alone the “Illini Trail” shortcut could access materials and supplies more easily.

Mr. Smith was employed by Armour & Co and was sent by them to the Argentine Republic to oversee the building of elevators, warehouses, refrigerating plants, and other construction work on their vast holdings in that country. He later sold structural steel products in Chile.

He made a 5,000-mile journey to Pennsylvania to claim his bride, Anna Allen, on August 20, 1911. On January 3, 1922, Mr. Smith petitioned the Court to change his name to Walter Smith Oglesby and he is so listed in The Semi-Centennial Alumni Record of the University of Illinois.

William Walter Smith died around 1940 in Philadelphia.