The Lincoln Group Remembers Daniel Smith, Son of a Slave

By Wendy Swanson

Washington, D.C.

Friday, October 21, 2022


Lincoln Group members were saddened to learn today of the death on October 20 of our long-time member, Daniel Smith. Dan was one of our most inspiring and storied members, one who had a link to Lincoln’s time as he was the son of a man who had been enslaved. He was 90.


Dan was a kind, soft-spoken individual – but what a life he had! His father, born into slavery in Virginia, told stories to the young Daniel to relate the horrors of that institution. As an adult, Dan became a civil rights activist, present at historic moments in that movement. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. here in Washington, was with other activists on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, ran anti-poverty programs in Alabama and witnessed the swearing in of America’s first Black president. He too had experienced racial prejudice along the way and related those incidents, emphasizing that slavery is not just distant history but history that is still relevant today.


His story became known nationwide in recent years – publications and television introduced Dan to the American public. Reflecting on his father’s positive outlook in a CBS interview, his message to others identified the need today “for more kindness and to do right things.” Smith’s journey confirms that he too has followed this advice, “doing the right things” – whether as an army medic or when saving a man during a flood or when improving health care in America and beyond. Quite the journey indeed.


In recent months Mr. Smith, along with his wife, Loretta Neumann, another long-time Lincoln Group member, had been working on his memoir, “Son of a Slave: A Black Man’s Journey in White America.” Loretta expects the memoir to be published through the D.C. book store Politics and Prose within the next two weeks. Loretta provided the photograph accompanying this article – it was one of Dan’s favorites and will grace the cover of his memoir.


Be sure too to view a powerful program (including the interview referenced above) that appeared on the CBS Mornings in February. This news show interviewed Dan who not only shared the story of his journey but also his outlook on life. His obituary appeared in today’s Washington Post. Both served as sources for information for this article.


Our hearts go out to his wife, Loretta, and to the rest of his family. Our thoughts are with you at this sad time. We take strength though in celebrating the life of an extraordinary man, one whose journey has lessons for us all.


Funeral arrangements at this time are incomplete and will be shared at a later date.