Minnie Smoot, nurse and medical office manager, dies

Tuskegee graduate, she was a surgical nurse who later managed her husband's Garwyn Medical Center office.

Minnie Smoot, a nurse who worked alongside her husband at the medical office he opened to serve African-American patients more than 40 years ago, died of stroke complications Feb. 26 at Sinai Hospital.

The Cross Keys resident was 87.

Born in Demopolis, Ala., she was the daughter of Thomas J. Richardson and his wife, Abbie.

She was a 1947 graduate of U.S. Jones High School and received a nursing diploma and a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the Tuskegee Institute.

She remained in Tuskegee after graduation and became a surgical nurse in the operating room at the John A. Anderson Memorial Hospital. She later nursed at a Veterans Administration hospital, where she met her future husband, Dr. Roland Thomas Smoot.

She and her husband moved to Baltimore when he joined the staff of the old Provident Hospital on Division Street. They lived in Ashburton, and Dr. Smoot had a private practice in his home.

Her husband joined Dr. Donald Stewart and other physicians to establish the Garwyn Medical Center in the 2300 block of Garrison Blvd. to serve black patients. At the medical center's opening in 1969, James Farmer, director of the Congress of Racial Equality and an assistant secretary in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, spoke.

"My husband and his friends worried that [the center] would be a risk at first, but it turned out very well," Mrs. Smoot said in a 2006 Baltimore Sun article.

"She had a wonderful heart and was a giving person," said Olivia Cheeks Stewart, a friend. "She kept us laughing because she loved to talk and could be quite vocal on issues."

After raising her four sons, Mrs. Smoot joined her husband at the medical practice. She was a nurse and his office manager before retiring in 1991.

"My mother was engaging and interested in helping others. She gave her time to her organizations to assist those who couldn't help themselves," said her son, Dr. Duane Thomas Smoot of Nashville, Tenn. "She was a people person."

She joined the Baltimore Urban League and assisted with integrating Johns Hopkins, St. Agnes, Bon Secours and the University of Maryland hospitals with patients and medical staff.

Mrs. Smoot was an accomplished cook. She joined her friends in tennis games, and later enjoyed yoga classes, line dancing, and attending a senior exercise class, the Silver Sneakers.

"She was a scrappy tennis player," said Dr. Ted Patterson, a friend. "She was family-oriented and spoke her mind. She believed very strongly in education."

Mrs. Smoot was a past president of two social organizations, the Baltimore Chapter of The Links Inc. and The Carats. She was active in the Tuskegee Alumni Association. She played bridge in the Players Nine and the Three S clubs. She was also formerly active in the Gilman School parents association.

"She was my best friend and she was always on the go," said another son, James Henry Smoot of Baltimore. "She carried her calendar and her phone book at all times. She was willing to volunteer to help people more than she needed to," he said.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mount Zion United Methodist Church, 3050 Liberty Heights Ave., where she served on the church finance committee.

Survivors include two other sons, Ronald Harvey Smoot of Portsmouth, Va. and Gregory Walter Smoot of Bowie; three sisters, Henrie Faye McClain, Albertnette Mechelle McClain and Leatha Anne Paige, all of Demopolis, Ala,; a cousin reared as a brother, Robert C. Underwood of Flint, Mich; five grandchildren; and two great-grandsons. Her husband of 50 years died in 2006.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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