B. M. Smith: A Loving, Caring Spirit and Front Bench Stalwart

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
And to walk humbly with your God.

B. M. Smith of Silver Creek, Georgia, personified this Bible verse. He was a man who willingly accepted the responsibilities life brought him, and who gave his best to his family, to his job, and to his Lord. He did so with a smile on his face and love in his heart.

B. M. leading at Liberty Hill.

B. M. Smith at Liberty Hill Primitive Baptist Church near Barnesville, Georgia. Photograph by Johnathon Kelso.

Benjamin Marion “B. M.” Smith was born on March 4, 1940, the only child of Nolan and Myrtle Abney Smith. Nolan’s family were Sacred Harp singers, and B. M. learned to sing with them. His father passed away, however, when B. M. was thirteen. At that time, he stopped going to singings and took on more responsibility at home. He married Margie Allen on June 20, 1959. His mother Myrtle began to live with them that day. She remained with them until her death forty-nine years later. Margie’s sister also lived with them for a time.

B. M. and Margie had four children: Debra (husband Ken Ward), Wanda (husband Wyatt Bramlette), Gary (wife Connie), and Steve (wife Melissa). They have sixteen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. B. M. loved his family, and he enjoyed their frequent gatherings. He worked hard to take care of them. He spent thirty-five years as a valued employee of Georgia Kraft (which later became Inland Container). When he retired in 2002, he stayed busy driving cars for the local Chevrolet dealership, making deliveries for his son-in-law in the metal fabricating business, stocking shelves at Ace Hardware, and working at a family Christmas tree farm.

When he was not at work, B. M. loved keeping his yard in beautiful condition. He also enjoyed working at his place at Weiss Lake. He was a good fisherman. He loved to eat breakfast once a week with friends who formed a group called ROMEO: Retired Old Men Eating Out.

But B. M.’s real love was Sacred Harp. He loved it to the point of obsession; it was the only music on his playlist. He played it in his house, in his truck, and in his garage. In 1980, B. M. resumed attending Sacred Harp singings. Margie soon joined him. The singers there became his friends, the siblings he never had. He loved to sing, and he loved the singers. He often carried other singers to a singing, especially older singers who needed a ride. His aunts from the Blue Mountain/Anniston area—Druscilla Hines, Eula Johnson, Beulah Reese—and his cousin, Evelyn Harris, frequently rode with them. He and Margie also sang at many funerals and often visited elderly and sick singers. They joined eight or ten bus trips to far-off singings and enjoyed every one, especially the trips to New Mexico and Colorado. B. M. also served on the board of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company. The current board voted unanimously to award him a posthumous citation based upon his service to the company and to the Sacred Harp community. [Learn about past recipients and read about the Publishing Company’s posthumous citation program on the Sacred Harp Publishing Company website.—Eds.]

B. M. sits in his truck at Holly Springs.

B. M. Smith, with his ever-present warm smile, at Holly Springs Primitive Baptist Church in Bremen, Georgia. Photograph by Johnathon Kelso.

B. M. was a front bench stalwart at local singings. He often chaired singings and he started the one at Rome Midway Primitive Baptist Church (now the B. M. Smith Memorial Singing). He had started an earlier singing at Antioch Baptist Church, but it died after the church withdrew its support. He gladly served as chair or vice-chair of a singing; he was always willing to help in any way he could. He learned to key music so he could help out at small singings. Pam Nunn tells the story of his learning to key:

My family had always gone to Lower Cane Creek for a singing in May, but for some reason mom and dad [Jeff and Shelbie Sheppard] were out of town one year and could not be there. This singing is rather small to begin with, but it was even smaller that year. There was no one there who could or would key. So B. M. and I did our best to fill the need. One of us would try to give the key and then look for approval at the other, then adjust from there. There were a lot of adjustments. Needless to say, it was a very long day and we were glad when it was over. I have never attempted keying again. B. M., however, took it upon himself to learn how to key a song. He did a great job, as long as it was a song in a major key; he never was comfortable enough to key minor songs.

No one could say that B. M. did not follow the command to love mercy. His loving, caring spirit was evident to all he met, and he never met a stranger. He could carry on a conversation with anybody and everybody. While he was from that generation of men who were mostly silent about their feelings, his smile said it all. After he passed away, his daughter Debra noted that many co-workers and local people expressed their love for him. They remarked that he always had a smile and friendly conversation for everyone he encountered. The ladies from the credit union where he did business for thirty-five years talked about how they enjoyed his visits. He always took them peanut brittle for Christmas (made by Margie, of course). Together, he and Margie were a great team of encouragers.

We all loved B. M. It has not been an easy year without him. He will continue to be missed, especially in the Sacred Harp community, for a long, long time.

About Karen Rollins

Karen Rollins is the executive secretary of the Sacred Harp Publishing Company. She is descended from Sacred Harp singers on both sides of her family. Karen lives in Bowdon, Georgia.
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