The late Dr. Otis Smith, and friend of the club, Mary Rose Taylor, both key players in saving the Margaret Mitchell House many years ago
When Dr. Otis Wesley Smith passed away in 2007, he was a prominent member of the Rotary Club of Atlanta West End. More than that, he was an important part of Civil Rights history here in Atlanta and across the country. His story is tied to Margaret Mitchell and the saving of the Margaret Mitchell House. Here's his story ... thanks to Eric John of the Rotary Club of Atlanta West End and an online story at the time of his death.
The online story describes one of the city's most
striking examples of paying it forward. When Atlantans rallied to save the
historic Margaret Mitchell house, Dr. Otis W. Smith led the charge.
"Our first donation to save
the house came from him, unsolicited," said Mary Rose Taylor, founder of
the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum. "He wrote a check for $10,000 and
just showed up with it." He went to Germany to drum up
Daimler-Benz funds for the museum, talked up the project constantly and stopped
by often to greet visitors, Mrs. Taylor said.
In his mind, Dr. Smith was simply
repaying a debt. In medical school, he was so poor that he almost dropped out
until his mentor, Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, then Morehouse College president,
interceded. Suddenly, the funds were there. Only later did Dr. Smith discover
he was one of at least 40 Morehouse graduates to receive anonymous scholarships
from the "Gone With the Wind" author --- money that allowed them to
attend medical school.
If not for Margaret Mitchell,
"I wouldn't be a doctor and I wouldn't be what I am today," Dr. Smith
said in a 1998 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article. "She didn't want
anybody to know that she was doing this, but she was concerned about blacks
getting medical care."
Smith adopted that same cause as his personal mission, often in the same
anonymous way. Recognized as Georgia's first certified black pediatrician, he
funded Morehouse scholarships. With a group of
activists and other medical professionals, he fought to desegregate hospitals
in Atlanta and across the country. And he is recognized for his work in the International Civil Rights Hall of Fame.