2013 Indiana General Assembly

Late Tuskegee Airman was favorite teacher of state senator

2013-01-17T19:15:00Z 2013-01-17T19:28:22Z Late Tuskegee Airman was favorite teacher of state senatorDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
January 17, 2013 7:15 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Quentin Smith was a Tuskegee Airman, a former Gary city councilman and a living legend when he died Tuesday at age 94.

But to state Sen. Earline Rogers, Smith was something more.

He was her favorite teacher.

Rogers, D-Gary, fondly recalled her Roosevelt High School 12th-grade English teacher Thursday during a memorial salute to Smith by the Indiana Senate.

"(He) could stand in the middle of the chalkboard and begin a sentence writing with his left hand and complete the sentence with his right without moving a step," Rogers said. "I learned later that this meant you were ambidextrous, but then I thought, 'How cool!'"

Rogers said Smith's clever writing assignments boosted her self-esteem and his storytelling skills eased her transition and that of her classmates into the unknown world beyond high school.

The six-term senator, who taught in Gary schools for 38 years, said she didn't learn of Smith's service as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the famous black World War II air corps, until she was an adult.

Rogers said she cheered when Smith was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007 for his service.

"That made us all proud as you battled not only the enemy in World War II, but the racism that was prevalent in our armed forces," Rogers said.

Rogers joked that the only time she questioned Smith's decision-making was when he switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party. Though she said she forgave him.

Prior to the Senate's pausing for a moment of silence to remember Smith, Rogers shared final thoughts from "a grateful, appreciative and forever-thankful student."

"Thank you, Quentin Page Smith, for everything, your service to our country, our state, the city of Gary and the profession of teaching," Rogers said.

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