Cover photo for James R. Smith's Obituary
James R. Smith Profile Photo
1937 James 2020

James R. Smith

October 18, 1937 — June 9, 2020

Many in Tipton and Gibson counties will remember fondly James R. “Jimmy” Smith, the former high school/middle school band director for Covington, Trenton Peabody, and Munford schools. Born October 18, 1937, in Rondo, Arkansas, he grew up in Munford as one of seven children of Clarence and Mary Elaine Smith. He graduated from Munford High School where he met his lifelong sweetheart, Beverly Janelle Fletcher of the Gilt Edge community. He received his Bachelor of Science and Master in Education degrees from Memphis State University. He was a proud member of the Mighty Sound of the South marching band and the Memphis Junior Symphony. Involved with the Memphis music scene of the late 1950s and 60s, he wrote and arranged music and performed with the Bill Black Combo and performed with Ace Cannon and numerous other dance bands. Always an entertainer, he continued to gig as part of the group Sounder through the 1970s. A lifelong learner, he loved working as an educator. His first teaching position was as band director at Munford High School. He became the band director at Trenton Peabody in 1973 and at Covington High School in 1979. In 1985, he moved to Crestview Elementary where he shared his joy of music with a generation of children who as adults now remember him affectionately as “Mr. Jim.” In 2006, he retired after 46 years of teaching. His favorite pastime was holding Beverly’s hand. He also enjoyed camping and hiking and was an avid reader. He was a member of the Covington First United Methodist Church where he was a long-time choir member and a veteran of the U. S. Navy and U. S. Naval Reserves. He leaves behind Beverly, his beloved wife of 60 years, his son James R. “Jay” Smith, Jr. of New York City, and his devoted daughter Elaine Gwinn Todd (Robert) of Bells, Tennessee. He is also survived by his sister Betty Hartje of Lakeland, Florida, and brothers William Eleck “Wes” Smith of Dunedin, Florida, and Robert Smith of Nesbit, Mississippi. He was preceded in death by his parents Clarence and Mary Elaine Smith, sister Vickie Price, and brothers Clarence “Buddy” Smith, Jr. and Frederick “Fritzi” Smith. A graveside service will be held on Sunday, June 14 at 3 p.m. at Helen Crigger Cemetery in Munford, Tennessee. A celebration of his life will be planned at a later date. The family requests that any memorials be sent to the James R. Smith Scholarship Fund at Patriot Bank, in care of Charles Ennis, 101 East Pleasant Avenue, Covington, Tennessee 38019, (901) 476-6106.
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