Loretta Inez Dates Smith, a former Baltimore City Public Schools librarian active in her sorority, died May 11 at her home in York, Pennsylvania, of heart failure. She was 82 and formerly lived in West Baltimore.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Mosher Street and later Brighton Street, she was the daughter of Cecial Dates Mosley, a housekeeper at St. Gregory the Great Church rectory, and Carl Faulkner.
She attended the William M. Alexander and Booker T. Washington schools and was a graduate of Frederick Douglass High School, where she was the 1956 class salutatorian.
Family members said that as a child, she and her sister, Marva, were introduced to children’s book author and illustrator Marguerite de Angeli, who was researching for a book about African American children. The author visited the family home on Mosher Street.
The 1946 book, “Bright April,” was set not in Baltimore but in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Family members said it was a children’s book about a typical Black family living in an urban area. The work was popular among young girls in schools and libraries across the U.S. in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.
The three siblings broke through the color barriers imposed by segregation.
Her brother, Victor Dates Sr., was a pioneering African American student at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 1952 before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional.
Her sister, Marva, encouraged her to apply to Pembroke College in Providence, Rhode Island, the women’s college at Brown University, where she was a student. Loretta was accepted at the school, and the sisters were photographed together on the campus.
“There were few children of color at Brown at the time. I am sure she was homesick,” said her sister-in-law, Jannette Dates. “She had a bubbly personality. She liked to laugh, and she liked to interact with people.”
She was among early African American women to attend Pembroke College. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree, and her graduation was noted in The Sun.
Family members said that her mother and stepfather, Richard Mosley, inspired her and her siblings to attend college.
Ms. Smith returned to Baltimore in 1960 and began her professional career as a Clifton Park Junior High School librarian in the Baltimore City Public Schools system. She later earned a master’s degree at Goucher College.
While she and her future husband, Dr. Stewart Smith, had both been students at Douglass High School, they did not meet until they had a blind date in 1958. They went to the Mardel Diner in Catonsville and had several more meetings before they went their separate ways.
In the 1990s, after both had married and divorced, they were reintroduced by Charles Tilden, then president of the Baltimore City Community College.
“I was living in Pittsburgh and needed a date for a Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity Night at Las Vegas dance in Baltimore. I found out Loretta was free and invited her. After all those years I was still in love with her,” said her husband.
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He later paid her way to visit Pittsburgh, and they enjoyed the sights of the town — Mount Washington and Station Square. They were married March 9, 1994, by a justice of the peace.
She moved there and became the recording secretary of the Black Association of South Hills. She was also active in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority’s local chapter as well as the Pittsburgh chapter.
She joined the staff of the Mount Lebanon Library and later retired due to illness.
She enjoyed walking and aerobics. She and her husband traveled throughout the Caribbean.
“She had a positive outlook and was optimistic until the end,” said her husband.
In addition to her husband of 27 years, a retired chemist with Exxon and Bechtel Bettis, survivors include her brother, Victor Dates of Baltimore; a niece; and three nephews. Her sister, Marva E. Dates Belt, died in 2019.
A virtual celebration of life for Ms. Smith will be held June 26 on Zoom.