The Life and Legacy of Samuel R. Smith (March 30, 1943 – February 23, 2017)

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Samuel R. Smith

NASHVILLE, TN — Samuel R.  Smith, 74, was a legendary presence in Nashville high school track and field sports, and served 36 years coaching in Metro

Samuel Roosevelt “Sam” Smith, the son of the late Ike and Luvenia Smith was born on March 03, 1943 in Canton, Mississippi. At an early age he professed his faith in Jesus Christ and joined Buck Horn Baptist Church in Canton. After the family moved to Jackson, MS, he worshipped at the St. John Missionary Baptist Church under the pastoral leadership of Rev. R.L.T. Smith, where he remained faithful until he moved to Tennessee. As an adult, he became a member of Fifteenth Ave Baptist Church under the leadership of the late Reverend Dr. Enoch Jones and later the late Reverend Dr. William F. Buchanan and currently worshipped under the leadership of Reverend Joseph Tribble. At Fifteenth Avenue, he served faithfully as a rotational Sunday school teacher and remained a faithful member until his death. He attended public schools in Canton and graduated in 1964 from Jim Hill High School in Jackson, MS. He was awarded a football scholarship to Tennessee A&I University in Nashville, Tennessee under the leadership of legendary Coach John A. Merritt.

Samuel R.  Smith, a former Tennessee State football player  was a 1968 graduate of Tennessee State University (B.S.) and in 1974 received his Masters Degree and 45 hours in Administration and Supervision.

He taught Physical Education at North High School where he began his coaching career and Whites Creek Comprehensive High School where he coached track and field, and also served as an assistant football and baseball coach  as well as coaching football, baseball and girls track.

In 1980 TSU track coach Ed Temple started the Continental T-Belles Track Team for youth and after coaching the team one year, turned it over to Sam Smith. He then became the  coach and director of the Continental T-Belles Track Club. Sam retired in 2004, Sam spent endless hours fundraising, traveling, mentoring and developing young runners.  Smith built the T-Belles into a national power which each year sent several athletes to the Junior Olympics

Although he was well known and revered for coaching high school girls track through his work with the Continental T-Belles Track Club, he was also instrumental in helping these young women gain admittance to college via athletic scholarships. His track prowess was not limited to track clubs and high schools, but he also coached at the collegiate and Olympic levels.

“Coach Smith dedicated so much of his life especially to the coaching of young girls through the T-Belles track program,” TSU athletics director Teresa Phillips said. “I know so many young women have been exposed to great opportunities through that program and the work of Sam. Nashville has lost a track and field coach who spent decades leading winning teams for Metro Schools.

Whites Creek Principal Dr. James Bailey was a student himself when he came to know Smith.

“He was very direct,” he said. “He’d tell you exactly what he was thinking.”

Battle coached under Smith for six years.

“This is the house that Coach Sam Smith built,” he said, motioning toward the track. “There was a tree there. Some of his athletes tried to take a rest behind that tree. He’d tell them they needed to find something else to do. The team was counting on them. If you’re not here to be great, this is not the man to talk to.”

“He was almost unbeatable, untouchable,” said Metro Schools Athletic Director Roosevelt Sanders.

Sanders said he remembered a particular season competing against Smith. He said it wasn’t easy going head to head against a man who had such an ability to find and train talent in the Whites Creek community.

“We lost one time that year in the state championship game in the four by one relay,” he remembered. “Guess who we lost to? Coach Smith’s four by one.”

In recent years Sam was sought out by numerous NFL agents for his assistance in training their clients in increasing their speed for the NFL Combine tryouts.

During his lifetime, he received many special honors and recognition for his hard work, dedication and accomplishments. On May 06, 2016, Whites Creek High School honored him by officially naming their track and field facility the “Sam Smith Track”. As a final tribute, on April 11, 2017, he will be inducted posthumously into the Metro Nashville Sports Hall of Fame.

Sam was an active member of many local, state, and national organizations. He was a coach and Master Official with USA Track and Field (USATF), YMCA, Nashville Civitans, former President of the Big Blue Club, former member of the Untouchables, member of Nashville Chapter of the TSU Alumni Association, TSU Football Alumni Association and a former member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Committee. Coach Smith was a loyal member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.

Sam was preceded in death by the following siblings: Eldridge Phillips, Rosa Lee Tate, Emma McCall, Daisy Henry, Ora Mae Gogins and Addie Mae Bradley.

Sam was preceded in death by his parents, Ike and Luvenia Smith and 6 siblings: Eldridge Phillips, Rosa Lee Tate, Emma McCall, Daisy Henry, Ora Mae Gogins and Addie Mae Bradley.

Sam’s survivors include:   sisters: Winnie Washington,  Jackson, MS and Inez D. (Rev. Issac) Abrams of Compton, CA., devoted companion Joetter Jenkins her daughter, Tiffany Jenkins and granddaughter, Brianna,  play sister, Attorney Joy M. Sims and a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives, friends, students, athletes, and the Continental T-Belles.

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