Oscar Frommel Smith
Forest Lawn Cemetery
Location: Mausoleum Row Grave 100
(Oct. 25, 1891 - May, 4, 1950)
Oscar Frommel Smith, a prominent Norfolk businessman and civic leader, was president of Smith-Douglass Company.
Smith was born in in Bath, N.C., but his family relocated to Norfolk when he was nine-years-old. It was in Norfolk that same year that he began working as a paperboy, delivering the Virginian-Pilot. That summer, while still only nine, he took a job laying cable-conduit for a wage of 25 cents an hour. He continued to deliver papers and also perform other jobs as a laborer throughout his youth.
At the age of 15, Smith began working for the United States Wood Preserving Company, which produced wood paving blocks. That same year his father returned to North Carolina, but Smith decided to remain in Norfolk. He enrolled in a commercial course and became a foreman at the age of 15. He was promoted to assistant superintendent at age 17.
At the age of 19, he married the former Ruth McCloud of Norfolk County. He was also hired as a shop foreman for J. R. Young Fertilizer Company that same year and was promoted to supervisor six-months later. He continued at the company from 1911 to 1920, which is where he gained his initial experience running a fertilizer business.
In 1920, he joined with Robert B. Rowland, Jr. in organizing a nitrogenous tankage plant which was located at Money Point. He became the sole owner of the company about one year later. Suffering a major setback when a fire destroyed the plant, Smith built a larger one which he operated until 1927.
In that same year, he teamed with R. B. Douglass to form Smith-Douglass Company, which at the time of his death was the largest mixed fertilizer manufacturer in the world with plants located throughout the country.
Smith was instrumental in developing Crestwood, a 300-unit housing project in Norfolk County for African-American employees of his company. Built in 1937, the project was considered a model for industrial housing at the time. It included shopping and recreational facilities, and occupants were given the opportunity to either rent or buy on liberal terms.
In addition to his business interests, Smith was also known for his community service. In 1943, he was elected to the board of directors of the Norfolk United War Fund, which absorbed the Community Fund in the early war years, and served as first vice chairman of the successful fundraising campaign that year. The following year he was chosen as the general chairman of the fund. He supervised the fund drives in 1944 and 1945, both of which exceeded the goals of the campaigns. In 1945, he also began a three-year campaign to raise additional funds to aid member agencies to improve the physical structures of their buildings, many of which had been badly neglected during the years of the Great Depression and World War II.
In 1947, Smith was named as Norfolk’s First Citizen by the Cosmopolitan Club for his work as head of the United War Fund.
Smith was also the owner of Carolanne Farms, where he bred show horses. Tragically, he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 58 while riding one of his horses in a show at Sedgefield, N.C.
Virginian-Pilot, “Oscar F. Smith Succumbs Of Heart Attack While At Carolina Horse Show,” May 5, 1950, pgs. A-1, A-7.
Biographical information provided by Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries. Profile written by Michael Frost, Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation volunteer.
Visitor Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Office hours: Monday to Sunday 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM
Free parking inside cemetery.
Admission Cost: Free
Address: 8100 Granby Street, Norfolk, VA 23505
Official web site for more information: www.norfolk.gov/cemeteries
Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation Web Site: www.norfolksocietyforcemeteryconservation.org