“He was very methodical”
Robert and Ronald Smith describe the habits of their father, Bishop Karl Franklin Smith.
Residence (at time of interview): Colombus, OH
Twins Robert and Ronald Smith first learned of their connection to the Woodson family after the death of their father, Karl Franklin Smith, an educator, Bible scholar, and bishop of the Church of Christ, Apostolic Faith, in Columbus. In the 1930s Bishop Smith, who they remember as “very quiet in terms of his family history," had drawn up an ancestry chart based on what he had heard from his mother, but he had never spoken about it. Bishop Smith, who had a far-reaching radio ministry, founded his church and led it for a half century, from a congregation of twenty to over fifteen hundred. Both the bishop's parents were Methodist ministers. As Robert Smith said about his ancestor Thomas Woodson, "The key has got to be his religion."
12 Apr. 1997, Columbus, OH
Interviewees: Ronald Smith, Robert Smith
Ronald Smith talks about discovering his Woodson ancestry.
Theme: Jefferson Descent
Ronald Smith: I really didn’t find out until two years ago that I was related to “the” Thomas C. Woodson. As indicated before, it was through the Ebony Magazine that I finally became aware that we were talking about the same people. I wasn’t aware until I actually made the phone call because a lot of names are similar and you don’t know if you’re talking about son or master, or slave or master. You just don’t know until you make some connection. It wasn’t until I finally talked to James Wiley after the search for his telephone number and called him to ask Thomas C. Woodson’s wife and daughter’s name that I really made the connection that we were talking about the same person.
After his father’s death, Ronald Smith found an ancestry chart among his possessions.
Theme: Jefferson Descent
Ronald Smith: The stories that you always get, you don’t really hear about. Now if you look at what my grandmother actually put down as Thomas C. Woodson’s father, you won’t see Thomas Jefferson. What you’ll see, you’ll see the name of Thomas Woodson as being Thomas C. Woodson’s father and his mother being a slave woman. That’s all she put down.
See but there were so many taboos. You didn’t speak about certain things. And I don’t know, she said Thomas C. Woodson had a father by the name of Thomas Woodson and a slave woman. That was it that my father put down in the 1930’s. And that was a little piece of paper that I went from in order to try and pick up some things that (unclear) true.
Dianne Swann-Wright: I guess what I’d like to do is to ask you to really think about what it was that your grandmother said to you.
RS: She didn’t say this to me. She said it to my father.
DSW: Okay, well then, tell me about that and tell me what your father said to you.
RS: Now listen. My father really never said anything to me about this stuff. The only reason why I knew, I came across this, I knew he had it and when he passed away in ‘72, I said this is something very important, we should do something about it. He had drawn it up for some reason or another for a brother who died, I didn’t give you the name, had passed away in 1944. It was Karl Franklin Smith, Jr. He had drawn this thing up in the 1930’s for some reason or the other. But Karl Franklin Jr. died in 1942 and I don’t know why he drew it up and I just happened to see the thing and I used it. So it wasn’t, it’s nothing that I ever really spoke to him about or to his mother about. So I really don’t know why he did it. I really would like to know why he would do it back then, he would have done something like that, because you didn’t talk about genealogies then, or a lot of people didn’t know, so you really didn’t know so, an d there’s a lot of other things that were in there that I wish I had known about.