Alva Jane Smith
Mrs. Jane Smith
Alva Jane Smith, founder of the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission, died on Sunday July 31, 2005 in Wynne Arkansas. She was 81. She was born in Wynne and lived her entire life in Cross County Arkansas, though her work and vision impacted people with spinal cord disabilities across Arkansas and the United States. Mrs. Smith was a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She was the director of the Cross County Library, and her skills as a librarian, searching resources and compiling information served her well as she took on the role of advocate extraordinaire for Arkansans with spinal cord injuries.
Mrs. Smith's interest in spinal cord injury began in 1954, when her mother was injured in a motor vehicle crash, resulting in quadriplegia. After initial treatment in a Memphis hospital, there was no place in Arkansas for Mrs. Smith's mother to receive rehabilitative care. Memphis doctors suggested she should take her mother home to die. After investigating other options, Mrs. Smith decided to take her mother to the New York Rehabilitation Institute, where she could work with Dr. Howard Rusk.
After Mrs. Smith's mother was released from the Institute, Mrs. Smith returned to Arkansas and worked tirelessly to call attention to the plight of those with spinal cord injuries in Arkansas. In 1974, with the aid of then Arkansas First Lady Betty Bumpers, Mrs. Smith set up the Spinal Cord Injury Task Force of the Arkansas League of Nursing. By going door to door throughout the counties of Arkansas, the nurses determined the number of Arkansans living with spinal cord disabilities. As they expected, the results of their census showed that there were many Arkansans living with spinal cord disabilities, enough to warrant state action.
In 1975, after lobbying by Mrs. Smith, Dr. Rusk and others, the Arkansas Legislature enacted Act 311 which established the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission (ASCC) to provide a coordinated approach to early identification, emergency care, acute and rehabilitative treatment, and long term follow up. An innovative concept, ASCC was the first state agency of its kind in the nation, dedicated to the unique and complex needs of citizens with spinal cord disabilities.
Mrs. Smith served as the Chairman of the Commission from 1975 until 1981 and later as a member of the Commission from 1988 to 1991. Her vision, leadership, commitment and disdain for the status quo has guided the Commission Members and staff over the past 30 years.
Mrs. Smith was preceded in death by her husband W. Maurice Smith, Jr., who was her partner in her advocacy efforts. She is survived by her daughters, Annette Stacy and husband Bob, Murray Johnson and husband Ken, son Mark Smith and her brother ‘Buddy’ Murray, all of Wynne, and her grandchildren Sarah Jane Martin, Stan Bradshaw, Jake Stacy, Sam Stacy and Reece Smith.
Mrs. Smith will long be remembered as our founder, our godmother and our conscience.