Melba Lene Smith, born on January 15, 1945, in Kansas City, Missouri, was a prominent humanitarian and advocate for justice around the world. She graduated from Fayetteville High School in 1963. She attended AM&N College in Pine Bluff, Arkansas (now University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff), where she received a degree in business administration and was a beautiful 6’1” cheerleader.

Melba served as seminar designer for the Women's Division of the United Methodist Church and resource coordinator for Southern Africa for United Methodist Women at the United Nations. Her work for human rights encompassed a deep understanding of the political spectrum at home and worldwide, placing her in the spire of world leaders and great thinkers from President Nelson Mandela and President Bill Clinton to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Melba was at the forefront of advocacy for women's and children's rights. Following her retirement, she advocated for human rights, especially for women and children. She was a founding member of the United Nations African Mothers Association, which raises support for women and children in Africa, the Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Northwest Arkansas African American Heritage Association, which documents and preserves African-American history as American history for current and future generations.

In addition to her humanitarian work, Melba was a witness to history. She was at the Lorraine Motel with Joe Louw when he photographed MLK as he was dying after being shot. Louw was the only photographer to get a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King seconds after the American civil rights leader was assassinated in April 1968.

Melba's passion for preserving Black history extended to her community in Northwest Arkansas, where her family had lived for generations. She worked tirelessly to ensure that the contributions of Blacks in the area were recognized and documented. This was the impetus for co-founding the Northwest Arkansas African American Heritage Association (NWABH) with her friend and supporter of the cause, Sharon Killian. Melba's dedication to her mission was unwavering, and she believed that recording the history of Blacks in the community was vital to its growth and continued success. Her legacy inspires those who share her passion for preserving and celebrating Black history.

Melba passed away on March 20, 2014. Her legacy continues to inspire and serve as an example of the importance of humanitarianism and advocacy for justice.

 Melba Lene Smith, 1945 - 2014

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