From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Smith, Henry Clay

(born: 1839  -  died: 1904) 

Henry Clay Smith from Kentucky was one of the early African American police officers in the U.S. south; he is listed in the 1870 and 1880 U.S. Federal Census with the occupation of city policeman in San Antonio, TX. Smith had arrived in San Antonio in 1863, according to the Texas Voter Registration List, p. 233, line number 72. The list is available in paper at the Texas State Library and Archives, and the digital image is available in Ancestry. Smith is also listed as a colored policeman who lived on Sanchez Street, San Antonio, on p. 241 in Morrison & Fourmy's General Directory of the City of San Antonio, 1879.

Henry was still a policeman in 1881 when he was listed on p. 253 in Morrison & Fourmy's General Directory of the City of San Antonio for 1881-82. Four years later, Henry was listed as a laborer on p. 294 in Morrison & Fourmy's General Directory of the City of San Antonio, 1885-86. He was still listed as a laborer two years later on p. 310 of the Morrison & Fourmy's General Directory of the City of San Antonio, 1887-88.

Henry C. Smith was at the forefront of the hiring of African American policemen in San Antonio, TX. Forty years later, in 1910, San Antonio was one of four Texas cities that continued to employ African American policemen. New Orleans, LA, is recognized as the southern city that hired the first African American police officers, beginning in 1868. For more see Black Police in America, by W. M. Dulaney.

Henry was the husband of Angeline Smith, born in Virginia, according to the 1870 U.S. Census. In 1880, Henry was married to Martha Smith from South Carolina (b. March 1840). He and Martha lived at 76 Santos Street. In 1900, Henry was a janitor, and he and Martha had an 11-year old daughter, Agnes M. Williams, who they had adopted [source: 1900 U.S. Federal Census]. The family lived in the home they owned at 340 Santos Street. A decade later, Henry C. Smith had died (on October 9, 1904 in San Antonio, according to the Texas Death Index), and Martha is listed as his widow living on Sulfur Spring Road on p. 979 in the Directory of the City of San Antonio, 1910-11.

It is not known at this time if Smith was ever a slave in Kentucky. He was a free man when he arrived in San Antonio at the end of slavery in 1863 [though many of the slaves in Texas did not know they were free for another two years (Juneteenth)]. There were about 600 slaves in San Antonio in 1860. In 1870, there were about 2,100 Blacks and Mulattos in San Antonio. Henry Clay Smith was among them. He owned $600 worth of real estate and was a policeman at that time. He had continued working after leaving the police department, doing manual labor right up to near time of his death. He is last listed as a laborer on p. 431 of the Jules A. Appler's General Directory and Blue Book of the City of San Antonio, 1903-1904.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Smith, Henry Clay,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 28, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-11-03 13:41:36