Middlesex County has its own ‘Hidden Figure’
by Bessida Cauthorne White
Middlesex County has its own “Hidden Figure” in the person of Pearl Estelle Amy Smith, who grew up in the 1930s and 1940s at Laneview in northern Middlesex. As a young child she loved math but had no way of knowing that she would eventually become a mathematician for the federal government. Arithmetic was her favorite subject when she was taught by Mrs. Daisy Foster at Shiloh School. Encouraged by her parents, Perry Hilliard and Laura Johnson Amy, Smith was the valedictorian of her 1948 graduating class at St. Clare Walker High School before going on to obtain bachelor and masters degrees in mathematics and statistics from Virginia State College. After graduating from college, Smith taught at Virginia State College and at St. Paul’s College as well as at Bishop College in Marshall, Texas.
In the early 1960s, Smith was hired as a mathematician at the Naval Service Warfare Center at Dahlgren in King George County. Although at this time her unit was not segregated, there were very few African Americans who held such professional positions. Smith became section leader of her unit, and was the expert who was called upon whenever there was a computer glitch that needed to be resolved. She worked at Dahlgren for more than 30 years. Although she now lives in King George County, she has multiple family members who still live in this area, including her brother, Reuben Amy Sr., of Laneview and her niece, Reverend Dr. Griselda Amy Bayton, of Center Cross.
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