NASHVILLE, TN — Verleon Hunt Smithson was born at midnight on May 1, 1921 in Nashville, Tennessee, a mere eight years before the stock market crash. Her parents, the late John L. Smithson, Sr. and Lou Ora Berry-Smithson also had nine other children.
Verleon Hunt Smithson graduated from Pearl High School in 1939. She was a member of the Pearl High Alumni 1937-1939 Committee and for many years she helped coordinate annual dinners for the group which awarded college scholarships to deserving students.
Verleon Hunt Smithson married Roscoe Conklin Grant, Sr., an author and community organizer, and to this union was born seventeen children, forty-one grandchildren, and fifty-four great and great-great-grandchildren.
Through the years, those who have known Mrs. Grant know that she was and still is a woman of undying faith in the word of God; a faith she attributes to her Christian upbringing and being a life-long member of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church. Through most of her adult life necessity demanded that she work two, sometimes three jobs to provide for her family. Her testimonial to anyone who would listen is that she and her children would never had made it without her unflinching faith in God.
From her earliest recollection, her mother had a strong sense of community and a desire to serve others. Mrs. Grant also grew to care greatly about the community-at-large and the world around her. An example of her generosity and compassion is that on several occasions she has taken in women with children who did not have anywhere else to go and assisted them in becoming self-sufficient. And she also had a penchant for befriending and caring for the elderly who were alone.
In her thirties, she led an effort to raise legal defense funds for a 12-year-old African American boy who was falsely accused of raping a white woman in Belle Meade. The great Civil Rights lawyer, Z. Alexander Looby took the case. The child was acquitted.
For many years following that well-known case, Mrs. Grant went door-to-door in black neighborhoods to register people to vote or encouraging them to join the Nashville branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an organization she loves and of which she is a Lifetime member.
In the mid-1960s, Mrs. Grant, Attorney Robert E. Lillard and others severed on a committee that performed a vital role in the formation of the Davidson County Public Defender’s Office.
Among Mrs. Grant’s many accomplishments, she was also the sole proprietor of two restaurants in North Nashville.
She has always been a loving and devoted mother. In the early 1970s a daughter-in-law died, leaving behind seven children, the youngest was an infant. Mrs. Grant, again, guided by her strong faith in God and driven by bold determination, took in all seven of her grandchildren and raised them as her own. She was in her mid-fifties.
Once again in the true spirit of a loving mother and grandmother, while in her seventies, when most people would have gladly embraced retirement, Mrs. Grant opened a daycare and learning center for her grand and great grandchildren. After her tutelage, every one of her “little ones” could read proficiently before entering kindergarten.
It would require too much copy to tell every heroic deed that defines the life of
Mrs. Grant to this day, suffice it to say, her generous spirit, constant focus on those who needed her and her unshakable faith in almighty God tells the true story of a woman, who against incredible odds, has given our world a very concrete example of what is possible for those who live each day by faith.
At 98 years of age, Mrs. Verleon Hunt Smithson Grant is still of sound mind and strong spirit. She is still very active in the lives of her family and anyone else who may need her.