The late Dr. Fred F. Smith began one of New Haven, Connecticut’s lasting traditions in the early ‘60’s with the “Freddie Fixer” annual parade. Dr. Smith was a man of many talents and used what he knew to provide healing to the community he loved.
Smith was born January 30, 1902 in Jersey City, New Jersey. The grandson of escaped slaves became a student at Columbia University in New York in the early 20’s, and then entered Howard University Medical School. While at Columbia, Smith was enamored by the hustle and energy of the Harlem Renaissance period, and returned to the famed borough upon leaving Howard to work at the local hospital.
On a whim, Smith headed to Connecticut to see if a promise made for him to start a practice in the state would be honored. On his way back to New York, Smith made a stop in New Haven and fell in love with the community. He moved to nearby Milford and set up practice. This would lead to greater opportunities such as working at Yale University, a rare feat at the time for a Black man.
In 1962, along with community members entrenched in the city, the first cleanup of the Dixwell-Newhallville neighborhood took place. Area children were members of a contest to come up with a character to symbolize the effort and thus, the name “Freddie Fixer” was in honor of the doctor and community leader. The original goal of the cleanup effort was a partnership with the Dixwell Redevelopment Agency in order to help elderly residents with their homes.
The parade fell under hard times and moments of violence unrelated and unfairly associated with the event. Recent revival efforts to bring the parade back to prominence are underway.