Freedom Fighters: L.G. Smith

By Joan Hallmark - bio - email

Around Tyler, L.G. Smith may be known to many as football great Earl Campbell's father-in-law, but in 1952 Smith was a young soldier fighting for his country in Korea.

"We was fighting. I was in the field artillery, I was pulling that spring on that big gun. Shootin you know," said Smith.

Smith was only seventeen when he was drafted and sent to Korea. The official period of the Korean War is from June of 1950 to January of 1955. Smith's arrival in Korea in 1952 was right in the middle of the fighting.

"I was young. I wasn't but about 17 years old. We didn't hardly know what we was dong but we learned how to know what we was doing," said Smith.

He had to learn fast. He was assigned to the fifth armored division field artillery, manning a 155 Howitzer in an area where fighting had been fierce.

"They messed up the first calv, we took their places, the black soldiers went over there and taken the first calv place," explained Smith.

His all black company was for the most part commanded by white officers, although Smith says there was no discrimination on the battlefield.

"We was pushing them back. So you were winning? we were winning," he said.

Smith's field artillery unit was stationed behind the front lines, since the Howitzer was a long range gun. The problem of shooting at a distance was that the enemy was also shooting at you from a distance.

"We was shooting at them and they was coming back, but I wouldn't know which direction it was coming from you know."

Smith was on the battlefields of Korea for close to a year. He was proud to have served his country, but awfully glad when it was time to return home.

"I feel good one I was on my way home. It was great to get on that ship and head back to Texas.

Getting back to Tyler hit a snag when a West Texas restaurant wouldn't let the black soldiers inside. That is, until the cab driver bringing them home intervened.

"He carried us on in there, he bought us our food and everything and brought us to Tyler, Texas and put us out and didn't charge us not one cent."

After returning home L.G. Smith married and became an outstanding member of his community. His daughter Rene, one of four children, is married to football great Earl Campbell. There's more talk about football around the Smith household than about war, but that doesn't mean that Smith's time in Korea is forgotten.