Idealist and Renovator
The son of pioneering officers, Major Maurice Smith became the first Black officer commissioned in 1968 from the Southern Territory School for Officers’ Training (now Evangeline Booth College) in Atlanta, Ga. During his 40 years as an officer, he would serve in all four U.S. territories.
Some of his flagship work was done as a captain when he was transferred to the Western Territory in 1973 to reestablish the Compton, CA. Corps which had closed around the time of the race riots in 1965. By the 1970s the city was plagued by high unemployment, poverty, gangs and crime. Despite racial disparity, he successfully created trust, and, like so many Black officers, built a bridge between The Salvation Army and the Black community. He also was the first Black officer to manage an advisory board.
Using an anonymous donation, then-Captain Maurice successfully supervised the construction and opening of a 1,900-sq.-ft. building. The Compton Corps enrolled in the War on Poverty campaign by President Lyndon Johnson and became a site for the Neighborhood Youth Corps. This strategy brought many youth into the corps where the captain offered them counseling and support.
After retiring in 2011, he taught at the South’s Evangeline Booth College for six years. In 2018 the major published his autobiography, My Song of Songs, reflecting on his life through songs, a unique technique but not surprising given his keen vocal and brass musical abilities.