Robert Leslie Smith, 99, a native and resident of Latham, Alabama, passed away peacefully on Aug. 2, 2017, at North Baldwin Hospital in Bay Minette, Alabama.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert Augustus Smith and Sue Byrne Bryars Smith; and his brother, Gordon Hays Smith.
He is survived by many cousins, friends, former students and teachers who loved him dearly.
Mr. Smith was born on July 19, 1918, and he grew up in Latham in the home built by his father. He was a lifelong member of the Latham United Methodist Church, a man of faith, and a trustee for the church for many years.
He attended grammar school in Latham and Stockton, and graduated from Baldwin County High School in 1936.
He attended Daphne State Normal School for Teachers (1936-38) and received his bachelor's degree in education from Livingston State Teachers College. He received his master's in education from Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee and worked toward a doctorate in education from Columbia University in New York. He received an honorary doctorate in education from Livingston University in 1982.
Smith received many honors during his lifetime from the state of Alabama, the Baldwin County Board of Education, the Baldwin County Commission and numerous other groups and organizations. The latest was the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Medal of Honor Award given for outstanding leadership, service, patriotism and trustworthiness. He leaves behind an amazing legacy.
Lt. S.G. R.L. Smith served in the U.S. Navy during WWII from 1941-1943 aboard the USS President Adams. He shared many vivid memories in his book, Gone to the South Pacific, including seeing the flag raised at Iwo Jima from his station aboard ship.
He was indeed a member of the "Greatest Generation" who continually upheld high standards of patriotism and honor.
Leslie Smith was involved in the Baldwin County Education System since 1938 when he first taught school in the Elberta and Loxley schools. He began teaching at Foley High School in 1945 when he returned from duty during WWII. He became the assistant principal at Foley in 1950 and principal from 1955 to 1966.
In 1966, Mr. Smith was chosen to become the superintendent of buildings and transportation and worked in this position until 1981. His promotion to superintendent of education for Baldwin County was in 1981 until his retirement in 1985.
Leslie Smith was an advocate for education, educators and students throughout this county for nearly 50 years, and he worked to upgrade and improve this system to be one of the best in Alabama.
After retirement, Mr. Smith continued to be involved in community and county projects and showed great interest in those around him. He was a member of Rotary International, an avid Antique Car Club member and was one of the founders of the Elberta Heritage Museum in south Baldwin County. He generously donated items to this museum as well as the Baldwin County Bicentennial Park, Baldwin County Archives and History, The World War II Museum in New Orleans, The University of South Alabama Archaeological and History Museum and the Stockton Heritage Museum.
He participated in the filming and recording of early Baldwin County History through the County Commission for present and future generations. He was a board member for Historic Blakeley State Park in Spanish Fort, assisted with the recovery of an 1860s Goliath mortar from the waters of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, and was featured in the film completed by the National Park Service, The Mobile-Tensaw Delta, America's Amazon.
An avid reader and historian, Leslie Smith was the author of four books: Cemeteries are for the Living, written for the benefit of his cousins; Gone to the Swamp, an intriguing collection of times along the rivers in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta; Gone to the South Pacific, personal memories aboard the USS President Adams during WWII; and Rock On, Rock On, Rock On, an account of a friend and neighbor who worked for Smith's family during the 1920s.
Leslie generously directed all proceeds from the final three books to be donated to the Stockton Civic Club.
What a difference one man can make to a community, a county, a state and a nation. Robert Leslie Smith was a man of this caliber who lived by high moral and Christian standards, approaching each day with enthusiasm and determination.
Although he had no children, he loved and cared for those who crossed his path. He was frequently surrounded by many cousins and friends whose lives he forever changed in a positive way, each in an individual manner.
All celebrate his life and his reunion in Heaven and know that he now rests in the Everlasting Arms.
Final arrangements are through Norris Funeral Home in Bay Minette, Alabama. A gathering of friends and family will be held Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, from 6-8 p.m. at the funeral home in Bay Minette.
Graveside services will be on Monday, Aug. 7, at 10 a.m. at the Stockton Memorial Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Latham United Methodist Church, 60075 State Hwy. 59, Stockton, AL 36579.