Pastors' Memoirs

Edward Leon Smith, 1907-1987

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There is an old Sunday school hymn that most of us learned in our childhood. You remember it. These were the first words: "I think when I read those sweet stories of old,

When Jesus was here among men, How he called little children like Iambs to His fold. I would love to have been with Him then."

I never sing those words without thinking about Edward Leon "Pop" Smith. Surely he served his Lord by calling God's children like Iambs to "his" fold. "Pop" was with the Lord in serving His children.

Every annual conference has its history, its legends and its traditions. They are passed down to new generations as the personnel of the conference changes, but those legends and legendary characters belong forever to the history and traditions of the annual conference. Surely the Virginia conference is no exception nor does it want to be. Its history and traditions are full of great names and scores of nostalgic memories.

That is the way it should be, and that is the way it is. Among those names and in those legends and history is the name and memory of Edward Leon Smith. Many people knew him by his formal name, but hundreds and hundreds of people -young and old -knew him as "Pop." You see, he was superintendent of the Methodist Children's Home for the conference, and in those two and a half decades he became the only real "Pop" that hundreds of children had. Let's look at his life for a moment and remember him forever.

He was a native of Arlington, Virginia. He attended the Norfolk Division of The College of William and Mary and later Randolph- Macon College in Ashland, Virginia. This was followed by his theological training at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Later he studied administrative social work at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

He began his local church ministry at the Lynnhaven Charge in the Norfolk District in 1942. Then came the Haygood-Lynnhaven Charge in 1945 until 1947. His next assignment was Bishop Memorial Church which he served until 1949. In that year he was named superintendent of the Virginia Methodist Children's Home in Richmond. Therein began one of the really great chapters in the story of Virginia Methodism.

He married Mary Indiana Kelly in 1926. She shared almost a half century of his life and ministry. Surviving their father are two daughters, Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Buzzy of Fairfax County and Mrs. Byrdie Lou McClannan of Norfolk; a son, George B. Smith, III, of Harper's Ferry, West Virginia; three sisters, Mrs. Josephine Crowe of Seminole, Florida, Mrs. Katherine Massengill of Albemarle, North Carolina, and Mrs. Beverly Jordan of Siler City, North Carolina. In addition there are 10 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

"Pop" Smith was a real professional. He took every opportunity to participate in child care organizations as well as to improve his already excellent abilities in child care and home management. He attended conferences on children and youth all across America including the White House Conference on Children and Youth in 1960. He was twice elected president of the Virginia Association of Children's Homes. He was a past president of the Southeastern Child Care Association. His list of affiliations is too numerous to mention, including the General Board of Health and Welfare Ministries of the Methodist Church.

He was a member of Babcock Lodge 322, A.F. & A.M., a 33rd Inspector General in the Richmond Scottish Rite Bodies. He served as chaplain for Acca Temple Shrine. He was one of those rare souls who was active in whatever group he joined.

On November 12, 1976, he married the lovely Evelyn Louise Vaughan in the Jamieson Memorial United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Virginia. I had the honor of performing their wedding. For the rest of his life she was constantly at his side as they continued his ministry and their pilgrimage together. He served for a while as interim pastor at Central Church in Richmond and as interim pastor for the Richmond Charge, Rappahannock District. At the time of his death he was the associate minister for our Asbury Church in South Richmond, from which place his funeral service was conducted by the pastor, the Rev. Randy Rilee.

So make room for him in the noble history of the Virginia conference. You will remember him in many ways, but most of all, we will join the hundreds of little children and young folk scattered across this land, now grown to useful maturity, who will always remember and never forget "Pop" Smith. Hail and farewell.

-W. Kenneth Goodson



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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