E. June Smith was an influential civil rights movement leader in Seattle. Smith served as president of the NAACP Seattle Chapter for five years.
Smith was born was born in Cairo, Illinois in 1900 and worked as a secretary in St. Louis. She arrived in Seattle with her husband Roscoe O. Smith, a railroad porter, in 1941.
After her arrival in the city, Smith found work as an insurance agent. In 1948, she co-founded the Beta Kappa Chapter of Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, a business and professional organization.
Smith became deeply involved in civil rights activities along with Philip Burton, a local attorney who initiated suits against discriminatory practices in the city. By the late 1950s, Smith was serving as a member on the executive committee of the Seattle chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and became eventually became its president in 1963, a position she held for five years.
While serving as president of the NAACP Seattle chapter, Smith aroused the consciousness of the city through direct action campaigns. Partnering with the Seattle branch of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and CACRC in 1965, Smith organized and led to the King County Courthouse steps a protest march that attracted an interracial group of approximately 600 people.
During her second term as head of the Seattle NAACP in 1966, Smith directly challenged the Seattle School Board by launching a bold plan to persuade parents and their children to boycott Seattle schools in protest of the slow pace of the School Board’s inaction on school desegregation.
Smith called on parents to keep their children out of school on March 31 and April 1 to drive attention to the board’s continued segregation of black students. Uncertain of how many parents would participate in the march, Smith signed up parents to register their children as they arrived for regular school. Smith also helped found the NAACP credit union. Smith died on February 9, 1982, in Seattle. She was 82.