Photo by John Reyer AfamasagaElder Edwin B. Smith, pastor of New Freedom Church of God in Christ in Oxford, sings “The Impossible Dream” at the candlelight vigil for his father, the late Mayor Eddie Lee Smith Jr.
Family, friends remember Mayor Smith
Seventy friends, family and community members gathered to reflect on the life and the legacy of the late Mayor Eddie Lee Smith Jr. Friday evening at a candlelight vigil at Asbury United Methodist Church.
January 25 marked the 18th anniversary of Smith’s passing, toward the end of his third term in office. He made history in 1989 by becoming the first black person elected to serve in that role. Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Smith would have turned 90 this year also, on July 23.
Family members had gathered at his gravesite at Cottrell Memorial Garden shortly before the vigil for a private time of remembrance. They lit a lantern there that was then brought to the church and was placed in a wreath in front of a portrait of the mayor, which was the focal point of the service.
Speakers included Mayor Kelvin Buck; Dr. David Beckley, president of Rust College; Christy Owens, alderman, Ward 4; Annie Moffitt; Dr. Paul Lampley, on behalf of the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum; Andria Lang, executive director of the Alliance Charitable Foundation; Dr. Kenneth Williams, founder of Alliance HealthCare System; Lee Eric Smith, son of Mayor Smith and staff writer for the Tri-State Defender, and; Virgie Smith LaFlora, Mayor Smith’s last surviving sibling.
The audience gave a standing ovation to his wife, Luberta Elliott Smith, the former First Lady of Holly Springs, in celebration of her life and contributions in tandem with her husband’s.
Toward the end of the program, Rev. Zachary Beasley led the candle-lighting in remembrance of Mayor Smith, starting with the flame from the lantern that was the source of all the lit candles in the sanctuary. Dr. Nellie Joyce Smith sang “The Lord’s Prayer” as a meditation.
The vigil was followed by a fellowship meal organized by members of Asbury with dishes prepared by members of the community.
The event was organized by the Eddie Lee Smith Jr. Project. It is dedicated to preserving the memory of the late mayor and promoting causes consistent with his life and works, including voter registration, education, economic development, the arts, historic preservation, activism, community organizing, civic engagement and small business ownership. Its main goal as a tribute to Mayor Smith this year is to partner with others to register 1,000 new voters in Marshall County.
(Editor’s Note: This article was written and submitted by Carlton Smith, another son of the late Mayor Eddie Lee Smith Jr.).