My Truth: Miss Opal

Opal Johnson Smith/Facebook
Opal Johnson Smith/Facebook

By Cheryl Smith

EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally ran unedited in May 2019. Mrs. Opal Johnson Smith passed December 27, 2020 and we remember her with fondness as others will.

“My friends ask what do I see in you.”

Every time I sing those words from one of my favorite hits from the tantalizing Temptations I say to myself, “I wish someone would say those words to me!”

You see, I’m a firm believer that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and you can’t believe everything you see. 

Just look at posts on social media. You see something that looks outrageous but the remarks below the picture clearly illustrate that what you see, others see entirely differently.

After all, like the Temptations say and what I see, “Beauty’s only skin deep.”

Sometimes what you see is not totally what you get, so you can’t judge a book by the cover. 

Which brings me to my truth.

At first glance, you see beauty, regalness, and so much more! In this instance, the beauty is more than skin deep.

I always refer to her as the most beautiful woman in Dallas. I’m talking about Opal Johnson Smith.

A proud 1954 graduate of Prairie View A&M University, she served as Miss Prairie View A&M and she has the distinction of having an auditorium named after her at her alma mater.

Opal Smith/Prairie View A&M University

The youngest of eight children born to Professor Wayne Wright and Elsie Johnson of Nigton (now I could write about that name but I digress), young Opal was 15 when she graduated from high school and 19 when she received that degree in mathematics from PV.

Now she is definitely PV royalty. Her father graduated from Prairie View Normal, then went on to Tuskegee where the one and only Dr. George Washington Carver mentored him.

Her mom entered PV then took a break to be at home with the children. That break lasted for 35 years, then she went back and graduated, walking down the aisle with her youngest son.

It’s not a surprise that Lady Opal entered the field of education. Her “Daddy” was the principal, math teacher, basketball coach (undefeated for 10 years, including beating the number one school in Texas—Houston Wheatley) and janitor in Nigton. Under his leadership the school also won academic awards.

Now Lady Opal served 35 years in the Texas public education system, during which time she amassed numerous awards.

Her love for PV is unwavering and admirable!

Also her stories about her parents are endearing and inspiring. She describes her Daddy as calm, rational and very loving, and her mother as good looking, creative and sassy.

She said her parents instilled in her that “we have brains, we can learn, we can improve ourselves.”

Deeply spiritual, she believes it is important to “step outside myself and love others, help others.” 

Lady Opal was a brick house before the Commodores knew what to do with one. She was every woman before Chaka Khan ever held a microphone.  

Joseph Smith saw it all and together they bonded and raised a family, and showed their love to PV.

When she walks into a room, she doesn’t have to say a word. But when she speaks, it’s with a humble and loving spirit that is a joy to behold.

So, in this instance, as the popular group, the Dramatics, sing, “what you see is what you get!”

She is the real thing, beautiful inside out.

Just imagine what people will say about you, when you’re not around. No, on second thought.  Don’t worry, enjoy life. Live a good life.  

Realize the value of life and take advantage of it by making a difference.

Lady Opal has a gratitude journal that she uses.  

In my journal, I will write that I am so grateful for Opal Johnson Smith.