Mr. Wallace Smith, age 101, of Dothan, Alabama passed away Wednesday, July 29, 2020; Drive-thur viewing will be Monday, August 3, 2020 3 PM-7 PM and Tuesday, August 4, 2020 10 AM-7 PM at the funeral home; funeral service will be held on Wednesday, August 5, 2020 10 AM in the Sanctuary Park Chapel AME Church, Dothan, AL; burial will follow at the Memory Hill Cemetery.
Wallace Lee Smith, Junior was born to Wallace Samuel and Fannie Bea Hayes Smith in 1919. He grew up in Dothan, AL, following Granddaddy Smith wherever he farmed, raised chickens, or went fishing. He worked in Granddaddy Smith’s garage, later reopened under the name of Smith and Sons Garage, filling station, repair shop, and grocery store. He also learned the ways of God from Granddaddy Smith, eventually following him as a trustee at Park Chapel AME Church, lodge member, and community and civic activist.
He graduated from North Highland School in Dothan, served in Okinawa in the Army during World War II, then upon returning, married Lucille Delores Smith (nee Griffin), one of three daughters of the well-known Porter Griffin. Together, Wallace and Lucille rented a little room, drove a beat-up ’37 Chevy, and got Bachelors Degrees in Education from Alabama State Teachers College in Montgomery (now ASU). Wallace went on to get a Master of Science Degree in Education from Tuskegee Institute and became a school principal in the state of Alabama, beginning at Madrid, then Columbia, then Ashford Colored schools. He became a daddy himself to Gary Jerome Griffin and Wally Renee Smith.
Ashford Colored High School became Grimsley High School, then Grimsley Jr. High School, as part of racial school integration. Wallace Jr. waited, won trust, demonstrated his value, and became the first black principal of Ashford High School. A street now carries his name in Ashford. A scholarship for black high school students now bears his name.
Wallace was a Soloist, well-known and smooth dancer, golfer, pool and ping-pong player, 50-year Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Brother, Lodge member, 68-year Charter Member of the Men’s Civic Club, Community spokesperson, trail-blazing Black civic leader, peacemaker, and member of other organizations too numerous to mention. Most importantly, Wallace was a devoted husband for nearly 50 years, until he lost his precious “’Cille,” on June 11, 1997. No one ever grieved harder.
Wallace invested time, treasure, and energy into the lives of countless young people who were his students, faculty, co-workers, and mentees. He was at home with princes and paupers. So many came back to his table in the den years later to thank him, and say, “Look at me now. I owe it to you.” In return for the compliment, he would deflect humbly, and pour out the next wisdom lesson right then and there, appropriate for the next stage of that person’s life.
Early in his adult life, Wallace became known for a famous greeting. When asked how he was feeling, he would always say, “I’m one hundred!.” He repeated that greeting until his illness and untimely demise at age 101. He continually deepened his gratitude and adoration of his Lord. “Total Praise” became his favorite hymn. Wallace was among the last of the “great generation”, having survived all his siblings, Oscar Zane Roseberry, Pearline McCloud (nee Smith), Fannie Bea Knight (nee Smith), Vermie Dell Smith, James Smith, Beauford Samuel Smith, Eloise Griffin (nee Smith), and Charles Smith. He leaves behind his two sons Gary and Wally, their wives Renay and Yvonne (Peaches), all the progeny of Daddy Smith’s clan and the Griffin clan, and admirers worldwide.
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