Rev. James Willis Smith passed away peacefully on Tuesday,August 10, 2010 in Oceanside, CA. Jim, as he was affectionately called, was born in Columbus, Georgia on October 24, 1923, son of James Willis Smith, Sr. and Blanche Miller Smith, and brother to his sister, Elisabeth, already five years old. The family moved to the Atlanta area in time for Jim to start school and where they lived for many decades.
During the Service, Ray J. Register and his wife Rose Mary sang “What a friend we have in Jesus” in Arabic (åá ÕÏíÞ ßíÓæÚ) as a touching memory of the Registers working under the mentorship of Jim Smith and his wife Betty mainly serving the Arabic Churches in the Assoication of Baptist Churches in Israel – in Nazareth, Cana, Turaan.
As WWII started, Jim was a student at Emory University but was drafted into the Army Air Force and assigned to the Pacific Theater as a cryptographer. Later, he became an assistant chaplain. His military service included the Philippines, Okinawa, New Guinea, and Japan. When he was mustered out of the army, Jim returned to Emory U. to complete his undergraduate studies. His marriage in 1947 to Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Flanders of Atlanta, along with his growing desire to enter the ministry, led the young couple to complete their undergraduate studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. During this period, Jim was ordained as pastor of the Baptist Church in Prairie Hill, his first pastorate of many to follow over the years.
In 1954, Jim received his first Theology degree from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
The following year, Jim and Betty were appointed missionaries to Israel where they lived for 34 years and ministered in such cities and villages as Nazareth, Jerusalem, Cana, Tur’an, Gaza, and Ashkelon, living among both Arab and Jewish Israelis. One special joy was trying to draw people from both sides into small fellowship groups with such emphases as learning each other’s languages, holidays, religious beliefs, daily living customs, and sharing foods, music, and entertainment.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents and by his sister, Elisabeth Smith McGinty. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Elizabeth Flanders Smith; by his daughter, Jacquelin S.Winter of Oceanside; and by his son and daughter-in-law, Kyle and Diane Smith of El Cerrito. His grandchildren are: granddaughter, Elika and husband Eric Fredrickson of Cambridge, Mass.; and grandson, Nerel E. Winter of Oceanside. His nephews and their wives are: Jerry and Sylvia McGinty of Tampa, Fla., Philip and Betty McGinty of Atlanta, and Don and Barbara McGinty of San Raphael, Calif.