American YouthWorks' Parc Smith Profiled by Austin News Site

American YouthWorks’ Parc Smith builds on a family legacy of fairness

By Michael Barnes
American-Statesman Staff

In rural Erath County, white townsmen in hoods once threatened Parc Smith’s grandfather.

“They demanded: ‘Why are you employing a black man when there’s white men out of work,’” Smith, 41, recounts. “He called them out by name: ‘Billy, Johnny, Bob, I’m going to count to three and start shooting.’ At two, he started shooting. They left and never messed with him again.”

Smith, CEO of a rejuvenated American YouthWorks, which blends education, service and jobs training, learned about social decency from an early age. His father, who joined civil rights protests at the University of Texas during the 1960s, taught at historically black colleges. His mother came from a long line of Texas workers who helped their neighbors in any way that they could.

“I was always taught to be good to all people,” he says. “Race and color, economic status don’t matter.”

Once a prospective forest ranger who served on conservation crews, Smith’s personal search for a way to help others took him outdoors. It’s easy to imagine the relaxed and wholesome-looking Smith, 41, as a happy-go-lucky kid. He camped with the YMCA, which employed his mother in Waco, before heading to the Dublin and Stephenville area.

“My parents were very supportive,” he says. “And pretty hands-off. I was free to do what I wanted.”

Playing football in a small Texas town also gave him something of a free pass from serious trouble. Popular, he was asked by his classmates to speak out against the school district’s dress code. Generally a respectful student, he wore a T-shirt to school that read: “Only a fascist would tell a kid how to wear his hair.”

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