Rutherford County community leader Dr. George Smith dies

Scott Broden, The Daily News Journal, March 24, 2018

For more than 30 years, Dr. George Smith devoted his time to securing scholarship funds for high-achieving black students in Rutherford County.

Smith died Friday after an illness.

An active member of the community, he gave his time to the Murfreesboro Breakfast Rotary Club, the MidSouth Bank board of directors, the Middle Tennessee Civil War Round Table and the U.S. Colored Troops Living History Association.

A native of Decherd, Tennessee, he graduated from Tennessee State University in 1971 and Meharry Medical College in 1975. He spent 30 years as chairman of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund.

In a 2013 interview, Smith said the driving force behind the start of the scholarship was personal and social.

“The personal driving force was that I grew up in a small town and when I got ready to go to Tennessee State University, the Masonic Lodge gave me $100. I was so proud of that $100. I wasn’t going to let them down. That always stuck with me. I made a decision back then that if ever I got in a situation where I could give back, I’d do that,” Smith said at the time, noting that the social aspect was to recognize black students for their success outside of sports.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Smith praised as physician, mentor

Smith also served as medical director of Community Care of Rutherford County. County Mayor Ernest Burgess called Smith “one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known in my life.”

“He deserves every bit of credit we can possibly give him for the contribution he’s made to so many, many lives and so many, many of his patients in Rutherford County,” Burgess said.

Former MTSU professor Gloria Bonner echoed Burgess’ sentiments.

“He was the quintessential community physician, professional and servant,” she said. “He gave so much of himself to our community. He leaves a legacy of service, commitment and dedication.”

Dr. Cheryl Ellis, a public health professor at Middle Tennessee State University, said Smith was progressive when it came to practicing medicine, relying on the adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

She recalled Smith’s efforts to get people involved in health education.

“He made sure a lot of churches and a lot of schools got grants where they could pursue the goal (of health education),” Ellis said. “He was like a gentle giant. He was so humble and kind, but yet he was forceful in projecting his ideas about health education and medicine.”

Bonner said Smith “had a love of history” and was instrumental in saving what is now Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center, a symbol of African-American heritage in Murfreesboro.

In addition to being active in giving his time and energy to Bradley Museum, the Franklin County native was part of a Civil War re-enactment group and portrayed a Union soldier with the U.S. Colored Troops.

Rutherford County Commissioner Joe Gourley called Smith a great leader and inspiration to the county’s African-American residents.

“Not only was he a known physician, but he was a noted historian and contributed a lot to the understanding of African-American history in Rutherford County. He will be missed,” Gourley said.

Knowing Smith was ill, state Rep. Mike Sparks requested a moment of silence on the House floor Thursday. Sparks said the two often shared the same thoughts when it came to historical events and considered their relationship a special one.

“He was a big encourager of me. We had a great relationship. There’s not going to be any other like him. I wish we had some young men and women that would follow him as a template, especially when it comes to history,” Sparks said.

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