Longtime Delta leader B.F. Smith died Jan. 12 at his home in Leland, Miss. He was 85.
Smith served as chief executive officer of Delta Council from 1947 until his retirement in 1983, and was widely respected for his role as a tireless advocate for the Delta. As the leader of Delta Council for almost 40 years, Smith worked to insure the region's needs were addressed on the local, statewide and national levels.
Described by his peers as knowledgeable, dynamic, a visionary, a public relations master, and a classic leader, Smith will be long remembered for his contributions to the region.
“Every person should have the ethics and integrity of B.F. Smith. B.F. Smith was an honorable man, and he was certainly a leader in the Delta. Even the president of the United States called him up to get his opinion on things,” says Ben Lamensdorf, chairman and past-president of Delta Council. “B.F. Smith worked hard for everybody in the Delta to make this a better place to live. Everybody respected him, and even when his opinion of something differed from your own, you knew his opinion was right, and was based on facts.”
Jimmy Dick Carter of Rolling Fork, Miss., who served as Delta Council president in 1980, says, “B.F. Smith was a tremendous asset to the Delta, and to Delta Council in particular. During his long tenure, he was instrumental in organizing the Delta Council industrial department, and he worked very closely with our congressional delegation in Washington, D.C.”
“His favorite saying was, ‘It's amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets credit for it.’ That was the philosophy he used in getting things done for the Delta and for Mississippi over these many years. He was an outstanding leader, and there is no way to truly measure his contribution to the Delta and to Mississippi,” says Carter.
Smith's successor at Delta Council, Chip Morgan, says, “The work of Delta Council was a ministry for B.F. Smith. Whether he was working on labor issues, agricultural issues, or economic development for the region, his foremost concern was the society and economy of the Mississippi Delta.”
A native of Holcomb, Miss., Smith graduated from Greenwood High School, Sunflower Junior College and Delta State University. Before accepting his leadership role with Delta Council, he taught school, and worked for the Veterans Administration.
Among his many achievements, Smith received the U.S. cotton industry's Harry Baker Leadership Award, he was inducted into the U.S. Cotton Industry Hall of Fame in 1982, and he was the recipient of the coveted Silver Beaver Award for his work with the Boy Scouts of America. Smith was also honored in 1988 with the first $1 million endowment to Delta State University, given in his name by Delta farmers and businesses.
Smith is survived by his wife Mary Alyce Bounds Smith of Leland, Miss., his son James Smith and his wife Greer of Greenville, Miss., and his daughter Le'Laine Smith Weilenman and her husband Johnny of Stoneville, Miss.
Services for Smith were Jan. 14 at Leland United Methodist Church, where he served as a Sunday school teacher for 40 years. Memorials may be made to the Leland United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 129, Leland, Miss., 38756, or to the B.F. Smith Foundation, P.O. Box 257, Stoneville, Miss., 38776.