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Old Chester, PA: Biographical Sketches

Harold Tilghman Smith

Harold Tilghman Smith; Photo courtesy of Betty Ledbetter James

Harold Tilghman Smith

Photo courtesy of Betty Ledbetter-James, NJ

Harold Tilghman Smith

(A biographical sketch contributed by Betty Ledbetter-James)

First Black to serve as Chester Upland School District Superintendent

Harold Tilghman Smith, a veteran educator in Chester Upland School District Superintendent, was appointed a five-year term as School Superintendent December 31, 1981 by a unanimous vote of the school board. According to School Board President, Peggy Charleston, “The schools, the teacher, the public, everyone wanted Mr. Smith as our new superintendent”.

A life time resident of Chester, Harold T. (as he is affectionately called by his family), was educated in Chester Public Schools and has been described as a model student and a noted gentleman. While at Chester High School Harold was a member of the National Honor Society which earned him a Kiwanis Build Forever Medal for his outstanding achievements which placed him fourth in his graduating class. At an early age, he displayed exceptional mathematical skills which led him to Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio on a scholarship grant. During his years at Wilberforce University, Harold was President of the Student Council, Vice President of Zeta Sigma Pi honor society, member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, First Lieutenant of the Advanced ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corp). Additionally he ran track and was listed in Who’s Who in American College and Universities. Harold T. earned a Batchelor of Science Degree from Wilberforce graduating as Magna Cum Laude with a 4.0 grade point average. After graduating from Wilberforce Harold continued his educational studies and received graduate degrees and certificates in fields that led up to his becoming superintendent.

In 1950 Harold became a professional employee of the Chester School District and was appointed as a Mathematics teacher at Douglass Jr. High School where he remained for ten years. During his tenure at Douglass, he attended Temple University on a NDEA Fellowship to the Guidance and Counseling Institute and received his secondary school principal’s certificate. Harold performed various administrative duties assigned to him by the principal, Mrs. Emma Brinkley at Douglass (he was vice principal without the title.)

Harold continued to move up the professional ladder after leaving Douglass Jr. High School; he served in the following positions in the school district:

1958 - Guidance Counselor at Showalter Jr. High School
1963 – Vice Principal – Chester High School
1965 – Evening School Coordinator (while serving as VP at Chester High)
1967 – Director of Secondary Curriculum
1968-81 – Assistant Superintendent of Chester Public Schools
1981-82 – Assistant Superintendent of Chester Public Schools
1982-91 - Superintendent of Schools

During Harold’s professional career, he served on several boards, received many citations and recognitions which are too numerous to name.

Harold is a life long member of Murphy AME Church. Through the years of his membership he has served as a Trustee, President of the Choir and Bible School Teacher among other positions.

In spite of his busy schedule Harold always found time to do ‘One More Thing.’

Harold is living out his retirement enjoying his home in Cheyney with his wife, Gloria Ledbetter-Smith, a retired Chester-Upland School District educator, spending time with his grandchildren and great grand child, traveling, maintaining his yard, and just some ‘good ole relaxing.’

Thanks Mr. Harold T. Smith for helping to shape the lives of so many Chester students for over 43 years. We love you Harold. We love what you stood for as an educational leader in Chester-Upland School District, we love you for your well mannered and gentle like ways, we love you and want to thank you for sharing your knowledge, wisdom, ambitious spirit, love and concern. Now we want to share with others your great legacy and add your name among the other ‘Chester Greats.’

Submitted by Betty Ledbetter-James 






If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about individuals in Chester, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com

© 2003 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 02/24/07