In my years of endeavoring to preach the gospel of Christ, I have had the privilege of knowing and associating with the finest people on earth. Among these is a whole host of faithful gospel preachers, some well known in the brotherhood of Christ, others not so well known, but all of them men of tremendous dedication and commitment to the cause of Christ. This week, in keeping with my intention to write from time to time about ordinary, everyday people I have known and loved, I want to tell you about a simple, down-to-earth gospel preacher by the name of Charles P. Smith, Sr., but known simply as Charlie Smith.
I first met Charlie in 1962 when I moved to Jackson, Tennessee, to preach for what was then the Allen & Edgewood Church of Christ (now the North Jackson Church of Christ). Charlie was an occupational preacher, by which I mean he supported himself and his family in secular work and preached part-time for small congregations that could not afford a full-time minister. Charlie, as I recall, supported his family in sales work, and because he was “personality plus,” he was successful in his work. At the time, Charlie was preaching for the Lord’s church in Pinson, Tennessee, between Jackson and Henderson, the home of Freed-Hardeman University. As a matter of fact, under the oversight of the elders of the Central Church of Christ in Jackson, Charlie had established the church in Pinson and continued to serve it for many years.
In the summer of 1963, Charlie asked me if I would assist the church at Pinson by teaching a class each morning in a Vacation Bible School and preaching each evening in a meeting. I agreed to the arrangement. It is only a short distance from Jackson to Pinson, I was young and energetic, and always ready to teach and preach anywhere I had the opportunity. Too, I knew that being with Charlie would be an enriching experience.
Charlie knew the common, everyday people and how to speak their language. While he had studied at Freed-Hardeman College, there was nothing hifalutin’ about Charlie Smith. He knew how to get down on the level of ordinary people. Together, Charlie and I visited members of the congregation and prospective members. In the evenings, we would eat in the homes of different members. We would be driving along the roads of the flat countryside of West Tennessee and Charlie would blurt out, “Yep, they got one.” A little later he would say, “Yea, they got one, too.” I asked, “Charlie, what are you talking about?” He said, “You see that mound of dirt with a door in the side out there in the yard of that house? That’s a ‘fraid hole. When people are afraid a tornado is headed their way, they head for their ‘fraid hole.” Then Charlie went on to explain, “Nearly everybody who lives out in the country here in West Tennessee has a ‘fraid hole somewhere near their house.”
Several years after moving from Jackson, I returned to preach in a meeting with the Allen & Edgewood church. I was standing in the foyer one evening greeting people as they came in for the services. In came Charlie. I grabbed his hand and said, “Charlie Smith I haven’t seen you since ‘Walking Tall’!” Charlie grinned, cut his eyes up at me, and said, “Did you see that?,” almost as if he was a little embarrassed. Charlie had had a bit part in the original “Walking Tall” movie about the life of legendary McNairy County, Tennessee, sheriff, Buford Pusser, starring Joe Don Baker. Much of the movie had been shot on location in Henderson and in Chester and Madison Counties. Actually, Charlie was pleased that he had had a little part in it, that I had seen it, and that I knew he had been in it.
Charlie has now been deceased for a number of years. He was a good man. He was thirty-four years old when he became a New Testament Christian. But when he became a Christian he was fully converted to the Lord. He devoted himself to the work of the Lord and to the preaching of the gospel. He preached for several congregations in North Mississippi and West Tennessee and did a good work with all of them. I look forward to seeing and visiting with him again in that place where there will be no need for ‘fraid holes.
May 19, 2015
May 20, 27: Green Hill Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN.