Clarence Lee Edith Carter Smith was born on August 23, 193 5, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to the late Clarence and Pearl Carter. As an only child, she was affectionately known as " Clarence Lee". She accepted Christ at a young and was baptized at Second Mount Calvary Baptist Church in New Orleans, where her father served as Deacon and she played the organ and piano during Sunday services. Playing since the age of 5, she took 11 years of private piano lessons from Camilla Todd Hayes, one of several African American women pianists who performed in early New Orleans jazz bands.
Clarence Lee attended Gilbert Academy and Gaudet Episcopal High School, where she graduated in 1952. While in high school, she attended local “sock hops” to the sounds of musicians such as Fats Domino which added to her love of music. To pursue her passion for the piano, she attended Dillard University in New Orleans. As a student, Clarence Lee was a member of the University Concert Choir and Marching Band. She studied piano under George Walker, the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize for Music. In addition to her life as an accomplished musician on campus, Clarence Lee was initiated into Beta Gamma Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in 1954 and voted “Miss Dillard University" in 19 55.
In 1956, Clarence Lee received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Education. She also received a Master of Music Degree in Piano from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois in 1958. Upon completing graduate school, Clarence Lee accepted the position of Instructor of Piano and Music Education at Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in Atlanta, Georgia, from 1958-1961.
Following her tenure at Clark College, Clarence Lee taught at Alcorn State University, in Lorman, Mississippi as an Assistant Professor of Music from 1962-1998. She was extremely proud of her students who professionally excelled in the areas of music education, vocals, and piano. She served as a piano accompanist for the Alcorn State University Concert Choir. Also, she held an annual campus concert called "An Evening with Clarence Carter Smith" where she was accompanied by student musicians and vocalists. In addition, she was the pianist for weddings, Panhellenic programs, church services, and several university musical productions including "The Wiz “and “Purlie “. Furthermore, she was an avid fan of the New Orleans Saints.
While an Instructor at Alcorn State University she met and married the late Dr. John Milton Smith, a History Professor from Fayetteville, North Carolina. Two daughters were born from their union: Pearl S. Parker (Darryl, Sr.) of Gaithersburg Mary land, and Danita T. Smith of Gaithersburg, Maryland. Clarence Lee is also survived by three grandchildren Darryl M. Parker II, Sydney P. Parker, and Jonathan A. Parker. Additional beloved family members include Rhetta C. Smith, M. Teresa Proctor, James G. Smith, and the late Michael A. Smith.
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