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Robert Lee Smith collection

Identifier: AMN 1068

Scope and Contents

Series 1: Newspaper clippings and Correspondence

Holds newspaper clippings, mostly from the Charleston Chronicle, documenting Smith's legal case and correspondence of Margaretta Childs with letters from People United to Live and Let-Live (PULL-L), the Charleston Branch of the NAACP, and its various branches, Charlayne Hunter, of the New York Times, and John T. Williams, uncle of George A. Payton. Includes Childs letters to and from Amnesty International, letters from Childs to Marjorie C. Amos, Charles Morgan, Jr., Sister Margaret of the Sisters of St. Dominic, Henry Steele Commager, and others requesting permission to use their names as supporters of a Robert Lee Smith Defense Fund. The series holds letters from Robert ("Robbie") Smith to Childs, expressing gratitude for her efforts and his status while serving time in prison. Various documents includes letters from John T. Williams regarding the murder of his nephew, George A. Payton, and an unrelated magazine article.


  • Creation: 1976-1984, and undated

Biographical Note

Robert Lee Smith, a thirteen-year old African American male from McClellanville, South Carolina, was arrested on April 14, 1971 for allegedly murdering Mrs. Almeta "Meta" Fogle, a white shopkeeper. An oral confession Smith made was used as evidence of his guilt and ultimately led to his conviction of murder in 1975, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Smith's case garnered support of Margaretta Pringle Childs, a Charleston historian and archivist. Childs contacted and worked with attorneys, individuals, and various groups including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Amnesty International and People United to Live and Let-Live (PULL-L) to reopen Smith's case. Robert Lee Smith was paroled in October 1984 after serving nine years in prison.


1.4 linear feet

Language of Materials



The Robert Lee Smith collection consists of newspaper clippings, correspondence, reports and various documents generated and gathered by Margaretta Pringle Childs (Mrs. St. Julien Ravenel Childs). Newspaper clippings (1977-1984), mostly from the Charleston Chronicle, discuss the case and its possible link to the unsolved 1975 murder of George A. Payton, an African American attorney who was representing Smith. Childs' correspondence (1977-1979, and undated) is on all aspects of the case and some correspondents include public defender Edmund Robinson and other attorneys, Payton's uncle John T. Williams, various branches, including the Charleston Chapter, of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Letters from Robert ("Robbie") Smith, discussing his gratitude to Childs, life and education in prison, and religious convictions. There are letters from Childs to various people asking to include their names on a letterhead for the defense fund, with a letter from historian Henry Steele Commager, granting permission. Includes an undated draft of a letter from Childs attesting to Smith's character and requesting parole.

Collection Arrangement

This collection contains one series:

Series 1: Newspaper clippings and Correspondence

Processing Information

Reprocessed for ArchivesSpace by Georgette Mayo, June 2021

Inventory of Robert Lee Smith Collection
In Progress
2005, 2021
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English

Revision Statements

  • 2021: Originally processed by Harlan Greene; re-processed for ArchivesSpace by Georgette Mayo

Repository Details

Part of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture Repository

125 Bull Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424 United States