Samuel Cooper "Smitty" Smith was born in Blacksburg, South Carolina, in 1900. He came to Greensboro in 1919 to attend high school at North Carolina A&T State University and completed his undergraduate degree at A&T in 1929. He then attended the University of Michigan, where he finished his graduate studies.
Smith held several jobs after this time, including assistant state supervisor to trade and industrial education in North Carolina. He eventually went back to A&T to head up the technical institute, which was the forerunner of the current School of Technology. He remained there as dean from 1951 until 1967.
Smith and his wife, Angeline D. Smith, were involved in many civic organizations and causes. They were awarded numerous humanitarian and civil rights awards, including the Brotherhood Citation from the Greensboro Chapter of the National Council of Christians and Jews in 1988. Smith was chosen as Greensboro’s Citizen of the Year on three different occasions. In 1978, he was given an honorary doctorate by A&T. Smith died on April 22, 1994, at the age of 93.