MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University leaders dedicated the new Smith-Johnson Genealogy and History Room inside Pogue Library with a ceremony earlier this fall.

Dr. Brinda Smith of Boca Raton, Florida, made a generous gift to the Murray State University Foundation for the renovation and preservation of the genealogy room of Pogue Library, and the updates were unveiled to the community at the dedication.

The newly-dedicated area was named in honor of three women of the Smith and Johnson families who have lifelong ties to Murray State University: Mrs. Mary Johnson Smith, her sister, Lt. Cmdr. Anna Mayrell Johnson and Mary’s daughter, Dr. Brinda Smith.

Mrs. Mary Johnson Smith (1926, A.S.; 1960, B.S. elementary education) began her teaching career in eastern Kentucky, before returning home to teach for 42 years in the Calloway County school system. Her life’s dedication to education was demonstrated by the leadership she provided to the local retired teachers association and her participation in local, state and national education associations.

Murray State University leaders dedicated the new Smith-Johnson Genealogy and History Room inside Pogue Library with a ceremony Sept. 19. From left to right are College of Education and Human Services and University Libraries Director of Development Melanie Brooks, Murray State President Dr. Bob Jackson, Dr. Brinda Smith, University Libraries Dean Ashley Ireland, Executive Director of Development Tina Bernot and University Libraries Special Collections and Exhibits Director Dr. Sean McLaughlin.

Lt. Cmdr. Anna Mayrell Johnson (1931, B.S. history and 1932, M.A. University of Kentucky) was the dean of women at Murray State College from 1935 to 1939, and taught political science from 1932 to 1947. Johnson joined the Navy in 1943, where she was commissioned and became the first woman to be issued flight orders in the U.S. Navy. After the performance of various duty assignments during World War II, she completed the requirements for a Ph.D. in international law from American University.

Dr. Brinda Smith (1954, B.S. physical education and library science) taught in the College of Education from 1964 to 1980 after earning her Master of Arts from Louisiana State University and Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi. Upon retiring from education, she earned credentials as a financial advisor and principal broker in the investment community and provided years of leadership on the Murray State University Foundation Board of Trustees.

With family roots connected to Dr. Rainey T. Wells, the University’s founder, Dr. Smith’s appreciation for genealogy and Murray State University led her to honor her mother (Mary) and aunt (Mayrell) with the naming. 

“From early childhood, Pogue Library was the main place on campus that I loved,” Brinda said. “Murray State has always been special to me, and as it grows and continues to become such a fine University, I feel so very fortunate to be a part of it. With the history of our family at the University and the time we spent in that library, it just seemed to be a perfect fit to honor mother and Mayrell by naming the room for them.”

“The roles that Brinda’s family members have played in the history of Murray State have made them part of the fabric of this University,” said Murray State University President Dr. Bob Jackson. “We wouldn’t be who we are today without them. This investment in Pogue Library to help others research family histories and connections is a testament to her love for this University.”

The renovation included repair of the original windows and new treatments; new flooring, paint and furnishings; construction of shelving on the north end, an upgraded air control system and upgraded technology. 

Dean of Libraries Ashley Ireland said the space now includes a state-of-the art overhead book scanner.  

“I can’t tell you how many people contact us about how to preserve family bibles or other well-loved heirlooms in poor condition because they are falling apart,” Ireland said. “This high-resolution device allows materials to be laid open and be scanned, protecting binding and preserving the contents. This allows us to scan delicate newspapers or hand-written letters, ensuring that these items may be passed on to future generations.”

Ireland added it was fitting for Dr. Smith to honor her family through a room dedicated to genealogy and local history. 

“They have a long history with this community and this room is home to the collection where visitors come and search for connections to the past,” she said. “Pogue is home to some of our most irreplaceable treasures — handwritten records, historical photographs, printed local records, microfilm and now digital material. Visitors come to look through historic newspapers, cemetery records, birth or death records and other types of materials, most often to track family lineage.”

“Although many things are available online, there are thousands of documents in this building that are not available on the web. We’re working on improving that, but it takes time and investment to digitize them. We are thankful for Dr. Smith’s support to do that work.”

To learn more about the resources available in the Smith-Johnson Genealogy and History Room and Pogue Library, visit lib.murraystate.edu or call 270-809-6152.

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