William L. Smith, who served as the last U.S. commissioner of education, from 1979 to 1980, died Feb. 29 of complications after a biopsy. He was 79.
Mr. Smith worked in the U.S. Department of Education, and its predecessor, the Office of Education, for 40 years. He held numerous positions, including assistant secretary in the office for civil rights and director of the empowerment zone/enterprise community program.
He also directed the Teacher Corps, which helped provide internships for prospective teachers and professional development for veteran educators.
Most recently, he served as a senior adviser to the deputy assistant secretary for urban and rural policy in the office of vocational education. He retired in 2006.
A version of this article appeared in the March 12, 2008 edition of Education Week