Mrs. Cowart-Smith, a native of Georgia, traveled extensively as a Bahá’í teacher and lecturer in the U.S., Canada and several European countries. In 1947 she became a charter member of the United Nations Speakers' Research Committee, established by the Bahá'í Department of Public Information, and served on that committee for 10 years.
In early January 1954 the plane aboard which the Hand of the Cause of God Dorothy Baker was returning home from an International Bahá'í Conference in Asia crashed near the island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea. All aboard were lost. This rare, lovely, remarkably gifted and distinguished servant of the Cause was my closest friend.
During the first 18 months of my pioneering days in Atlanta, before the first confirmation of a member of my class of investigators of the Teachings, she was my mainstay.
The governor of Georgia at that time ranked first in racism among southern governors. The only place I could talk to a black friend in public was on the outside steps of the Post Office. An official, observing the quality of our conversation, said, "You can't talk here." Although its capital city was considered cosmopolitan by outsiders, the general attitude of Georgia's citizens was insular and traditional . . . especially in feeling.
A lonely time
For instance, my next door neighbor, a college graduate whose little girl was a first-grader in school with my Ginny, came to call after six months. She explained her delay by saying, "Well, the van that brought your household goods was from New York and so you're a foreigner. But I decided there must be something good about you because you have such nice children." My reply that I was born in Georgia didn't seem to register. Gradually, through carefully developed effort on my part, we became friends. Only a person of such penetrating vision as Margaret Mitchell would have dared to categorize the prewar culture as "Gone With the Wind." On every level my tests were frequent and severe, and I craved an understanding heart in the flesh.
It was a difficult and lonely time, but Dorothy always knew when my ebb tide was lowest, and a surprise visit when en route to Florida to see her son, or a phone call would give the needed boost.
In one instance she was scheduled to speak at a public meeting in Charleston, South Carolina. Not far from her home in Ohio, icy road conditions caused an accident. Dorothy wasn't injured but her car was damaged, so she canceled the engagement. About 7 p.m., while I was washing the dishes, a phone call from the National
Spiritual Assembly informed me or Dorothy's plight and asked me to take her assignment. I was willing, but had no one to take care of the children, and would have had to take a midnight train to reach Charleston in time for the meeting. Also, it was Sunday and I didn't have enough cash on hand to make the trip. My only recourse was the "Remover of Difficulties."
Soon I learned that neither of the women who sometimes cared for my two hopefuls was available. As I prayed for guidance, the feeling of assurance began to register, though I had no clues as to how either of the problems would be resolved. I was careful to keep my focus on the "Remover of Difficulties."
About 10 o'clock another phone call. I recognized the voice, but it had such an unusual quality that I asked, "Dorothy, where are you?" What a relief when she replied, "Just south of Chattanooga."
I informed her about the National Spiritual Assembly's call and my situation regarding the trip. Quickly, in her usual cheery, vibrant voice, she said, "Oh, Terah, I'll take care of it myself. I'll just delay my arrival in Florida."
When we met later, she told me that a little before 8 p.m. that evening an inner voice had said, "Call Terah." But she thought it not necessary to do so before she got to Atlanta, as she was staying overnight. So she continued driving. Several times the thought to call me had.recurred, but she dismissed it as before. Some time later, she said, there seemed to be two hands pressing her shoulders, and the voice was emphatic: "Call Terah now!" Frequently we didn't need more than intuition. . . .
Teaching in Canada
In January 1956 once again I changed residences in order to serve the Faith in a more crucial territory. From Rochester, New York, to Dundas, Ontario, was my fourth move.
In the early '40s, when I made my first teaching trip to the Province, I had discovered that the Canadian Bahá'ís have a plus— indefinable, but a plus. I joined five believers. Our purpose was to establish an Assembly and serve as a center for special teaching projects to help meet Canada's goals of the Ten Year Crusade.
Dundas is a small town near the industrial city of Hamilton. This metropolitan area was destined to play an important part in the Ten Year Crusade launched by Shoghi Effendi in 1953. Canada's goal was a large increase in new Assemblies, and Dundas was an ideal location for an intensified teaching campaign, for there were many Bahá'ís within a radius of 75 miles.
For three months we had study classes twice each week, and cooperated with the Canadian National Assembly in holding two seminars. This was one of the happiest experiences of my Bahá'í life. I shared our headquarters with two young ladies. We had a small quaint cottage with a flower garden that always reminded me of those in the countryside near London and Cambridge, England. The study classes, firesides and conferences kept us very busy. Our monthly conferences were well attended and the enthusiasm was unmatched.
At this time the majority of the Canadian Bahá'í population lived in Ontario, so thev had the responsibility for the largest number of new units of the administrative system. This concentrated work yielded six new Assemblies. No one had to move more than 50 miles to achieve this goal.
My last letter from Shoghi Effendi concerned my teaching work in Dundas. My good friend, the Hand of the Cause of God Leroy Ioas, who had been his close assistant for several years, wrote on the Guardian's behalf:
"The Guardian has been following your teaching activities in Canada with interest, through reports being received. It is most encouraging to get your word on the confirmation of six souls and great interest on the part of others who may also become Bahá'ís.
"This indicates the wisdom of visiting teachers who will settle for a time in a goal city, or area, so the fruits of their labors are developed. Too often our teachers enter a city, assist the local friends, stir up interest, and then leave before the results are known. The Guardian hopes more teachers may be able to remain in a city until the fruit is garnered.
"The Guardian is happy also that you are to devote time now in the southern states ... he hopes a new movement may take place in the teaching work in the South which has lagged so badly of late."
This was my last teaching directive from the Guardian.
In the fall of 1956 I moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, where my Bahá'í sister, Eiah, and I established our home that served as a center for activities of the Faith until she responded to a call to help save the Spiritual Assembly of Fort Myers, Florida.