Neighbors proud to have America Street renamed for Rev. Charles T. Smith

Neighbors proud to have America Street renamed for Rev. Charles T. Smith
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POSTED: Saturday, July 6, 2013 - 7:00am

UPDATED: Saturday, July 6, 2013 - 7:04am

Rare is the occasion when people are proud to see the name America removed from something. But residents in Old South Baton Rouge are proud of the city's decision to change America St. into Rev. Charles T. Smith Dr.

The name change will take place during a ceremony at 11:00 a.m. Saturday at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, with Mayor-President Kip Holden among the guests scheduled to attend.

Rev. Smith led Shiloh Missionary Baptist for 50 years before retiring in 2012. He passed away later that year. The first thing the church's neighbors recall about him was his generosity.

"[He] would do anything for any one," claimed Olivia Hewy, who lives next door to the church and knew Rev. Smith for more than 60 years.

"He was very, very giving," agreed Janice Johnson, who lives on the street soon to be named for him. "I mean, the door was open to everyone, whoever was in need."

Rev. Smith was known to go out of his way for the homeless.

"Even the ones that was out on the street, with the signs in front of them, he'll help them out," said Deborah Roby, a deacon in the church who also lives on the street that will bear his name. "We know what they were gonna do with their money, or whatever, but he was out there to help them. He said, 'it don't matter what they're gonna do with their money, God told me to help them, and that's what counts."

Now it is the city's turn to give, placing Rev. Smith's name on the street that dead-ends into the church he led.

"That's a great honor, for the city to recognize him in that fashion," Johnson said.

"I think it's a very wonderful thing to happen," Hewy agreed. "Because all of what he did, and he was a very nice person; his wife [Eula], ]too."

Rev. Smith had a big impact on the community, but not a big ego.

"I called him, a man like that, 'the gentle giant,'" Johnson stated, "because the only time his voice got loud, to me, was when he was in the pulpit."

Rev. Smith provided guidance to several generations, and influenced generations to come by starting a scholarship program at the church which doled out tens of thousands of dollars.

"And that motivates kids. And that was a good thing, too," Roby said. "It's beautiful, and that's been going on for years and years."

His name and his legacy will go on for decades to come, because his life was worthy of America.

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