Rev. Jeff Smith passed away peacefully on Thursday, April 20, 2017 while participating in his favorite pastime, playing chess.
Smith is survived by his immeasurably loving wife of 53 years, Mary Olive (Gillie) Smith, from Reidsville, NC.
Born in Mt. Airy and raised in Winston-Salem, NC, Smith earned degrees from R. J. Reynolds High, 1952 (recipient of the Brevard Hoover Award and a Reynolds football player); Davidson College, 1956 (Beta and Diving Team); Union Theological Seminary in New York, NY, 1959; and Harvard University Divinity School, 1961.
Following his graduate work with theologians and Christian philosophers, Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich–mentors who nurtured his steadfast and enduring intellectualism and affirmed his deep concern for humanity in the mid-twentieth century–Smith followed his calling into the ministry.
In 2007 he was named Pastor Emeritus at his first church, Pine Hall Presbyterian, where he began in 1965.
Pastoring at several churches in North Carolina, including Edgewood Presbyterian in Sanford and Taylorsville Presbyterian in Taylorsville, Smith was also an active member of the Salem Presbytery, PCUSA. Dedicated to his lifelong passion for social justice, Smith served devotedly for many years on the Peace and Justice Committee.
He was a member of the Synod of North Carolina and he served as a delegate for two General Assemblies, making arguments for equity within the church. Remaining keen on political activism, Smith committed himself during the 1970s to public service, running the local office of U. S. Congress House of Representative Steve Neal (D-NC) of the Fifth District.
Locally known for his sharp insight, wit, and his timely, articulate interventions at meetings of the West End Association and elsewhere, Smith adored his neighborhood and remained committed to historic preservation, while demanding accessibility for people of all abilities.
A tireless advocate for the mentally ill, Smith fought stigma so that God’s grace could be witnessed in all humans.
Rev. Smith leaves behind not only his wife, but his three daughters, one deeply courageous son, two son-in-laws and five grandchildren who stole his attention and heart. They are: Davilla Gilbert and her husband, Craig Gilbert of Charlotte, NC; Mary Olive Smith and her husband Danny Weiss of Maplewood, NJ; Jeffrey Dee Smith, Jr. of Winston-Salem, NC; and Sandra Weathers Smith, of New York, NY.
Grandchildren in order of birth and height are: Kelly (18), Michael (12), Inacio (11), Gil (9) and Grant (8).
Smith was predeceased by his sister Davilla Smith Perry and her husband Bob Perry.
He is survived by his cousin Rev. Ned Gillum of Indiana along with four nieces and their families, who have so loved their Uncle Jeff.
The funeral service will be held at Highland Presbyterian Church, Winston-Salem, NC on Tuesday, April 25 at 2 pm. Family will receive friends following the service.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the charity of your choice or to Pine Hall Presbyterian Church in Pine Hall, NC.