SMITH, IMA MAE (1911 ~ 1998). Ima Mae Smith, First Lady of Texas and wife of Preston Earnest Smith, was born in Jack County, Texas on October 20, 1911, to Walter J. and Laura Mable Smith. She was a graduate of Ralls High School and attended Texas Tech University, where she met her future husband, fellow Tech graduate, Preston Smith, in a government class. They were married on June 20, 1935, in Ralls, Texas.
After receiving a teaching certificate from Texas Tech, Mrs. Smith taught elementary school in the communities of Farmer and Cone, Texas. The Smiths also ran a service station and a theater, where Mrs. Smith sold tickets and popcorn.
When her husband came to Austin as a State Representative and Senator, Mrs. Smith, who remained in Lubbock until Smith was elected Governor, became active in the Texas State House of Representatives Wives Club and the Texas State Senate Ladies Club.
As First Lady, Mrs. Smith took a special interest in the history of the Governor's Mansion and produced a 20-page brochure detailing the different rooms, furnishings, decorations and mementos in the mansion. She also took an interest in improving the conditions of Texas' prisons and mental health institutions. After several months of studying the needs of the facilities, she delivered a report to the Governor, who delivered her findings to the legislature.
The Smith's lived in the Governor's Mansion during a very turbulent time in American history. The Vietnam War was raging and the Watergate scandals were shaking America to its core. During that time, graffiti desecrated the walls that surrounded the mansion and a bomb was thrown on the lawn, luckily the Governor and Mrs. Smith were out of town.
Mrs. Smith, who remained ever loyal to her alma mater, Texas Tech, was the first woman to be named a distinguished alumna of Texas Tech University in 1969.
After returning to Lubbock, Mrs. Smith quietly resumed her activities in the Lubbock Women's Club, Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority, and St. John's United Methodist Church, where she and the Governor were charter members and she attended the Suzannah Wesley Sunday School Class.
Mrs. Smith, 86 years of age, passed away after a lengthy illness on August 29, 1998. She is survived by her husband, Preston, a son, Preston Michael "Mickey," and daughter, Jan Smith Taylor, and numerous grandchildren.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Ex-first lady Smith's dignity, grace recalled," September 1, 1998. Austin American-Statesman, "Political stars honor Ima Smith," September 2, 1998. Austin American-Statesman. "Former first lady of Texas Ima Smith dies at age 86," September 1, 1998. Lubbock-Avalanche Journal, 1969 Texas Tech Distinguished Alumna Remarks, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.