Born in Chicago, Ill, the daughter of James Smith and Alma Johnson. She considered herself a "professional volunteer", and said her nickname was "The Mouth" because of her outspoken nature in aiding causes. She had worked as a telemarketer and worked for Pinal Gila Council for Senior Citizens. She organized a support group for the mentally ill and was head of a block watch in the Indian Hills area. She received an award for giving 5,000 volunteer hours in a year. She was a Democratic precinct committee person.