“He gave me what I needed but didn’t give in to my whims.” sonceree clark, daughter of the Rev. Charles T. Smith
The Rev. Charles T. Smith, longtime pastor of the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, died Tuesday, Deacon Alvin Cavalier said.
Smith, who turned 80 on May 26, retired from the church this year after 50 years as pastor.
Smith’s wife, Eula Lee Smith, said Tuesday her husband was suffering from congestive heart failure and was in the hospital for a procedure before he died.
Rabbi Barry Weinstein, of the Temple Sinai in Lake Charles and Temple Shalom in Lafayette, said Smith always fought for equality and fairness for those less fortunate.
“He was a true gentleman and a teacher and always brought life and love to everything he did,” Weinstein said.
Weinstein and Smith served together in the Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge, formerly the Greater Baton Rouge Federation of Churches and Synagogues. The group’s mission is to promote justice through ministry to the poor and dialogue among those of different faiths and cultures.
Smith was also active in Together Baton Rouge, 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge, the Louisiana Missionary Baptist State Convention, the National Baptist Convention USA Inc. Congress of Christian Education and other religious, social and civic organizations.
In 2007 and again this year, the Smiths were instrumental in bringing the Baptist congress’ annual Married Couples Conference to Baton Rouge.
During an interview with The Advocate earlier this year reflecting on his decision to retire, Smith said he was blessed to have played a vital role in the growth of Shiloh.
“God has been very good to me,” Smith said in January. “We’ve been able to see this church grow from a small, limited congregation to become an organization that has really touched not only individuals but the community as a whole.”
About 10 years ago, Smith was also instrumental in setting up the guidelines for a pulpit committee that would help choose his eventual successor.
Under Smith’s leadership at Shiloh, the church on Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive started a credit union, a social service ministry with a caseworker, cash incentives for children of the congregation to make good grades, scholarships and social services for people who were not part of the Shiloh family, anti-drug classes, summer jobs, a bargain center that sold good clothes at low prices, day care and a nursery.
Also in January, Smith said not being able to preach would be one of the toughest adjustments in retirement. “My greatest pride in pastoral ministry is preaching the Word,” he said.
The Rev. Mary W Moss, pastor of the St. Alma Baptist Church in Lakeland, was the first woman ordained at Shiloh.
“Rev. Smith was my mentor and spiritual guide. He was a community leader who produced leaders and always required excellence in work,” Moss said Tuesday afternoon.
Moss said Smith was bold and took stands when he had to, a trait that came in handy when ordaining Moss, she said.
The Rev. Leo Cyrus, pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church and Second Baptist Church, were close friends for 30 years, Cyrus told The Advocate earlier this year.
Cyrus was upset Tuesday upon hearing the news of Smith’s death and did not want to comment.
“We became friends traveling to Baptists conventions,” Cyrus said in May. “He thinks everybody is somebody.”
“Mrs. Smith complements him,” Cyrus said.
Eula Smith was known for her volunteer work before she married her pastor.
Smith, an English teacher, became the second “first lady of Shiloh” in 1988. Winstonia Smith died in 1986. Winstonia and Charles Smith, who were married 31 years, reared three children, the Rev. Fred Jeff Smith, pastor of Greater Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Sonceree Clark and Eric Smith, of Denver.
“He gave me what I needed but didn’t give in to my whims,” Clark said in a May interview with The Advocate. “He was a disciplinarian when I needed that, a shoulder to cry on when I needed that, a mother when my mother passed and a bank when I needed money.
“Growing up, I thought him hard and uncompromising,” said Clark, a lawyer. “When I became a parent, I realized God had given me the best parents you could have. He’s a good guy, and I love him dearly.”
A graduate of McKinley High School and Southern University, according to the church’s website, Smith received his divinity degree from Union Baptist Theological Seminary.
Smith followed his father, the Rev. Dudley T. Smith, at Shiloh in 1962, as only the fourth pastor in the church’s 137-year history.
Smith held jobs in social work before he felt he could devote full time to pastoring Shiloh and Donaldson Chapel Baptist Church on Gracie Street, a church he led for 27 years.
“It took awhile to teach people about giving,” Smith said in the May 19 article.
“He taught me how to increase my giving,” lawyer Walter Dumas, whose philanthropy funds part of Shiloh’s outreach, said in May.
“Ten percent (tithing) is the bare minimum,” Dumas said. “Money’s one thing, but it’s other things, too, seeing people in the hospital, talking to people who need talking to.
“He practices what he preaches,” Dumas said. “He’s a giving man. If you’re in need, you don’t have to belong to the church. We’ll help you. That’s the kind of pastor we have.”