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Community honors San Diego civic icon Reverend George Walker Smith

Posted at 10:47 AM, Mar 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-06 16:56:52-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Community leaders and residents gathered Friday to remember a San Diego civic icon.

Reverend George Walker Smith died on Feb.15 at the age of 91. A memorial to honor Smith at Christ United Presbyterian Church, where he led mass for decades, was held at 11 a.m. Friday.

"We kind of thought of Rev. Smith as the black godfather of San Diego, and of this church, because he helped so many people," Delores McNeely, a church member of 30 years, told 10News in February.

Smith was the first African American to be elected in the city when he won the race for the San Diego Board of Education in 1963. He also started the Catfish Club, where weekly lunches served as a gathering for locals interested in civic or political issues in the community.

The forums began at the church, but were eventually moved to Channel 10 when the attendance became too large.

"All the political leaders in the community came, and we had this huge forum, and they listened to him. And if something were going on in the community, the first person that they would call was Rev. Smith," said McNeely. "His legacy is going to help the community to grow, everything he did, and wanted to do."