Thursday, July 14, 2005

Building takes Smith’s name

Staff Writer

More than 100 local dignitaries and friends and family of the late Holly Springs Mayor Eddie Lee Smith Jr. helped complete the visionary course he charted as the first elected black mayor of the city.

The official naming of the Holly Springs Multi-Purpose Building after Smith draws to a close all the projects he initiated, according to Mayor Andre’ DeBerry, who was appointed to finish Smith’s term in 2001 after his unexpected death.

In an emotional and prayerful ceremony Friday morning, Smith was remembered through the words of DeBerry, Luberta Smith, the wife of the late mayor, and through the words of his sons Edwin, Lee and Carlton.

In opening prayer, Mayor Smith’s pastor J. Michael Culbreth, gave thanks for the memory of the city’s first African American mayor and for his work and vision.

Culbreth prayed the facility will be used to uplift the City of Holly Springs.

In opening remarks, DeBerry said Smith envisioned a civic and social center for the community during his third term of office.

“He submitted a local and private bill introduced by Sen. Bill Minor which created the Holly Springs tourism tax and the Tourism Bureau,” DeBerry said.

One cent of the two cents tax on food and hotel rooms approved by the legislature, has been used to fund the Tourism Bureau and the other penny goes to pay off bonded indebtedness on the multipurpose building, constructed in 2003 and officially opened in May following Smith’s untimely demise.

“There is no other person this building should be named for than the person who developed the vision of the building,” DeBerry said. The City Board of Aldermen approved naming the building after Smith this year.

DeBerry, who was nurtured by the Smith family and calls Luberta Smith “my mom,” said he is honored to have the family, children and wife to witness the naming of the building after “one who gave the last measure of his devotion to this city.”

Federal Housing and Urban Development grants funded $274,000 of the cost of the project and the remainder of financing is coming from the tourism tax.

Luberta Smith said her husband supported physical fitness, and a group of women who refer to themselves as “The Walking Women” walk every day inside or outside on the adjacent walking trail.

The Smith’s sons made comments at the celebration.

Lee Smith said his father’s vision was for a united community - a far broader vision than just a ball court.

“I hope we all move to that vision and accept it,” he said.

His father envisioned the building as a cultural center - a place to hold events and “enrich the minds of the people who live here.”

Carlton Smith remembered his father who once upon being installed as mayor thanked everyone but almost forgot to acknowledge the support of his family.

“So, I am doing that,” he said, introducing the extended family in the attendance.

In addition to the naming of the Multi-Purpose Building after Smith, one street, Eddie Lee Smith Jr. Drive, bears his name.

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