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James Edward Smith was born October 7, 1930 in Lytton Springs (Lockhart), Texas and was raised in Luling, Texas. He joined the Union Hill Community United Methodist Church (Luling, Texas) and was baptized at the age of six. He later became a member of William Taylor United Methodist Church (Luling, Texas) where he was a member of the youth choir and the youth fellowship ministry.
James attended Luling’s Rosenwald High School, where he was a member of the track team and elected captain of the basketball team. James was elected president of his school’s chapter of New Farmers of America and during his junior year, he was elected as president of the state association at the convention held at Prairie View A&M University. He then represented the Texas New Farmers of America at the national convention in Tuskegee, Alabama and was recognized for his accomplishments. James graduated as salutatorian from his high school in 1948.
James attended Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) and was elected president of his freshman class. He also enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and was also a member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. James graduated from PVAMU with a Bachelors of Science in Agriculture Education in 1952 and was then commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army. While in the Army, he graduated from the Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia and the Army General School at Fort Riley, Kansas. After completing these Army schools, he was assigned to a unit in Germany for two years where he was a platoon leader, company commander, a staff officer, and then rose to the rank of Captain. After serving in the military, he returned to PVAMU where he earned a Masters of Science degree in Education in 1965.
James united in holy matrimony to his college sweetheart, Clara Nece Clack, on November 26, 1960 in Gonzales, Texas. They moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, where he was employed as a training instructor in civil service in the electrical technical training wing of Sheppard Air Force Base. He later moved to work in human resources and served as an equal employment officer. After 30 years of service at Sheppard Air Force Base, James retired from civil service in December 1990 as the Chief of Civilian Employment.
While in Wichita Falls, James was very active in the community, as well as the church. James was president of the East Side Community Development Association and was appointed to the city planning board by the mayor of Wichita Falls. He was also chairman of the County Mental Retardation Committee. James led the city planning board in many capital improvement projects including creating nature trails, developing parks, paving roads, installing street lights and street signals. James was a longstanding member of Mount Calvary United Methodist Church, where he was ordained as a lay speaker, served as charge lay leader, and elected president of Methodist Men and president of the Administrative Board.
James and his wife, Clara, relocated to Austin, Texas in 1991 and joined Wesley United Methodist Church. James was a co-facilitator (with his wife) of Disciple Bible Study. He and his wife participated in the marriage ministry and enjoyed serving in the “55-plus” ministry.
James entered God’s Holy Kingdom on May 12, 2021. We are comforted to know that he is now under God’s care.
James was preceded in death by his wife, Clara Smith, his father, Heardie Smith, his mother, Etta Babe Smith and his sister, Heardie Marie Roberts and his brothers, Clinton Smith and Alton Smith. James leaves to cherish and honor his memory, four children, Rosalind Gaither (Michael) of Houston, Texas, Michael Smith (Tina) of Austin, Texas, Jamie Barner (Richard) of Austin, Texas, Gerald Smith (Sherri) of Austin, Texas; eight grandchildren, Christopher Gaither, Lauren Gaither, Mariah Henry-Smith, Janae Barner, Ryan Barner, Ryan Smith, James Lee Smith, Alexandria Smith, one great grandchild, Isaiah Turner, and one sister, Rosa Nell Jackson of Austin, Texas, and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends.
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