Prayer in Public Schools – Letter to the Editor

Uncle Bob's letter to the Editor - 1963

Uncle Bob’s Letter to the Editor – 1963

Does this look old? It is. Typed on a manual typewriter in 1963. Some things are worth their weight in gold. This Letter to the Editor is one of them.

Robert Smith, my Uncle Bob, sent this Letter to the Editor of the local paper in South Paris in Oxford County, the poorest county in the State of Maine.  A native of Kennebunk, Maine, he was a relative of John Smith of the legendary tale of Pocahontas, who  married my mother’s sister, Gertrude, after graduating first in his class at Harvard Law. He opened a law office in South Paris, met the love of his life and courageously raise a family: my first cousins Alan (who never spoke a word because of Cerebral Palsy), Dennis, and Gwen.

He became the District Attorney and then the Probate Judge in Oxford County. A Republican of the Nelson Rockefeller brand, he wrote his Letter to the Editor after the U.S. Supeme Court ruled that prayer in the public schools was unconstitutional. To the chagrin of many of his neighbors, he supported the Supreme Court decision.

His daughter, my cousin, Gwen, sent this to me. with a note:

“I am amazed at how ‘global’ his thinking was, especially when you think of South Paris! I couldn’t wait to get out as I saw it as being so insulated from the real world…knew there was something better out there. Dad would be drummed out of the Republican party he so strongly supported with this thinking, but all politicians could take a lesson in civility from this!”

Bob Smith died of a cerebral hemorrhage leading a congregational meeting of the First Congregational Church of South Paris where he was the President of the Congregation, Choir Master and Organist. He died the way he lived – with the courage of his convictions and a faith in Divine providence that does not depend upon or favor the tyranny of the majority.

7 thoughts on “Prayer in Public Schools – Letter to the Editor

  1. I like meting Uncle Bob. And I’m so totally thrilled that he approved of removing prayer from the public schools. What a great way to discourage devotion — making it a meaningless recitation before class could start. Along with other reasons to oppose. My complaint is that I can’t read the article. I’d love to see how he presented it.

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    • Karin, Yes. Sort of. He suffered severe depression. It was a struggle to keep it together. Like lots of people carrying heavy burdens, he rose to the occasion as best he could. He was valiant. I imagine him at the organ playing the tune St. Dunstan and singing John Bunyan’s lyrics:”He who would valiant be ‘Gainst all disaster, Let him in constancy Follow the Master. There’s no discouragement Shall make him once relent His first avowed intent To be a pilgrim.”

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    • He was a very kind man of principle. I used to stay with Uncle Bob and Aunt Gertrude for a week each summer in South Paris to have time with my cousins Allan, Dennis, and Gwen. The first image of my uncle is of him carrying Allan to kitchen table to feed him. Allan never fed himself, never walked, and never spoke a word because of Cerebral Palsy. Allan died at age of 19. Like I said, Bob Smith was a kind man, as well as wise. He knew the meaning of prayer, and he knew it’s what people

        do, when and how they choose.

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