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Betty Jean Thornton Smith Scrapbook

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: SPC-2020-026

Scope and Contents

The Betty Jean Thornton Smith Scrapbook collection (1949-1978; 2005; undated) contains one scrapbook that details the life of Betty Jean Thornton Smith, an African American model, actress, teacher, and school principal. Many of the pages are inscribed with "mom" making the scrapbook's most likely compiler, Smith's child. This scrapbook contains mostly clippings and other material that relates to Smith's time at Lincoln University- a HBCU in Jefferson City, Missouri, such as reports on plays, parties Smith attended, and a few clippings that discuss Smith's time as the business manager of the LU's alumni chapter in Los Angeles, and her attendance at various alumni events. Other clippings in this scrapbook discuss Smith's time as a clothing model in the Los Angeles area for Francois Andre, and her work as a teacher and principal at San Fernando's El Retiro School for Girls. Many of the clippings feature images of theatrical productions; fashion shows; portraits; social events; and others. Some of the other clippings in this scrapbook feature images of Smith's parents- Mr. and Mrs. William Thornton; clippings about her husband, Alonzo M. Smith, a Lincoln alumnus and sales representative for Lucky Strike; and a tribute to Smith's friend, Louise Cummings which includes a funeral program, clippings, and photographs taken at a theater production. Some other notable clippings include: cover of the 1949 LU Homecoming program featuring Smith; images from "Mirror News" featuring El Retiro School; a hand drawn image of Smith; a program for a play directed by Smith entitled "The Girl from Nowhere"; and clippings regarding Smith's role in the stage production "Born Yesterday". Clippings come from newspapers such as The Los Angeles Tribune, The Afro-American, the Chicago Defender, MIrror News, and Los Angeles Sentinel.

Also included in this scrapbook is correspondence from A.S. "Doc" Young, Johnson Publishing Co. that discusses the possibility of using Smith's image for a feature in "Jet" or "Ebony" as well as some of Smith's thoughts and inquires about African American experiences in show business; a letter from Jet photo editor, Wesley South asking Smith to send a photograph and brief biography to him; and a letter of recommendation for both Alonzo and Betty Smith from Chester Stovall, Director Industrial Relations, Urban League of St. Louis Inc. to Mr. Wesley R. Brazier, Executive Director, Urban League of Los Angeles prior to the Smiths' move to Los Angeles.


  • 1949-1978; 2005; undated
  • Majority of material found within 1950s-1960s


There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Archives and Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical materials and not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical / Historical

Betty Jean Thornton Smith, a native of Pittsburgh, PA. attended Duffs Iron City Business College in Pittsburgh prior to Lincoln University (LU)- a HBCU in Jefferson City, Missouri. At LU, Smith was a Commerical Education major, with a minor in Speech and Dramatics and starred in several of the university's Stage Crafters productions. After graduation, Smith moved to Los Angeles, CA. where she was a model at Francois Andre for Charm Studios, as well a teacher at El Retiro High School for Girls in San Fernando, where she later became principal at age twenty-six. She was also involved in the LU Alumni Association as their business manager. Smith was married to Alonzo Smith, also a LU alumnus, who graduated in 1951 with a major in Business Administration. Alonzo was a high school teacher who later worked as a sales representative for Lucky Strike.


1 box (one scrapbook)

Language of Materials


Inventory of the Betty Jean Thornton Smith Scrapbook
Karen Clemons
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the California State University Dominguez Hills, Gerth Archives and Special Collections Repository

University Library South -5039 (Fifth Floor)
1000 E. Victoria St.
Carson CA 90747