• 90°

Orrville native featured in book by Minneapolis author

An Orrville native is featured prominently in a book written by a Minneapolis author.

Dr. Hallie Hendrieth-Smith was interviewed in “Before I Leave: Wisdom from the Stories of Six Women Over Eighty,” a book written by Jenney Egertson.  Hendrieth-Smith, who died on April 27, 2016 at the age of 99, is featured between pages 147 and 187.

Egertson recently visited Selma and dropped by The Selma Times-Journal to discuss her first book and Hendrieth-Smith.  Egertson said she got Hendrieth-Smith’s name from Dr. Carol Johnson, the first African-American woman to serve as Superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools.

“Of all the women I interviewed, Dr. Hallie Hendrieth-Smith was the most articulate, not surprising given her long career as an educator,” Egertson said. “I felt grateful to have been allowed into her world.”

Hendrieth-Smith grew up with her parents and six other siblings on a farm in Orrville.  Dr. Hallie Hendrieth-Smith attended private schools that Black children were allowed to attend, that were run by the Presbyterian and the Lutheran denominations.

Hendrieth-Smith attended Selma University and Alabama State University to pursue a teaching degree. While attending ASU in Montgomery, she met two Civil Rights icons, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.

“He was wonderful, he worked with people in the community and organized the civil rights committee,” Smith said. “Parks was “absolutely fantastic. She was a very wonderful person.”

Hendrieth-Smith discussed growing up during the Civil Rights Era with Egertson.

“When I asked Hallie what it was like growing up with the racism in Selma has come to represent to many Americans, she told me she didn’t know it existed until she was an adult,” Egerston said.

“That’s when I made the connection between the woman she had become and her childhood community, where parents were able to shield their children from a reality they would face soon enough as grown-ups. By making sure her physical emotional and spiritual needs were met, Hallie’s parents allowed her to navigate a bigger, often unfriendly world.”

Hendrieth-Smith later moved to Minneapolis in the early 1950s after her first husband, the late Rev. Martin Hendrieth became pastor of Wayman AME Church. From there, Hendrieth-Smith was an elementary school teacher and principal for 27 years until retiring in 1981. Her second husband was Rev. Noah Smith, who died at 107 in 2015.

Egertson said it took her 18 years to write the book.

“I wanted to write about women between the ages of 75 and 80,” Egerston said. “I began writing Before I Leave in 2000, after meeting an 80-year-old woman I couldn’t forget. For the next 18 years I interviewed, came to love, and wrote about a total of six women, all over the age of 80 at the time I met them, and most in their mid-to late 90s by the time they died.”