Southeastern remembers Mr. Eugene
Lauren Pratt | August 15, 2019
Eugene Smith, Sr., affectionately known around Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) as “Mr. Eugene,” passed away August 11, 2019 at the age of 92. Smith was a beloved SEBTS facilities employee for nearly 40 years and was known for his humble and hardworking work ethic.
“Mr. Eugene” as we called him was one of God’s great gifts to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary,” said SEBTS President Danny Akin. “He personified what it means to be a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Never did he greet me without a wonderful smile, a gracious handshake and a word of encouragement.”
Smith was born on September 26, 1926 in Rolesville, North Carolina to Gertha Smith and Rosa Massenburg. He was a member at New Bethel Baptist Church as a child, but later became a member of Olive Branch Baptist Church with his wife, Joan Crenshaw Smith. He and his wife were married for 57 years before she passed away in 2007.
Smith worked for the facilities team full-time from 1980-1993, just before his 67th birthday. Even though retired, Smith continued to work part-time for SEBTS cleaning out the recycling around campus and running the Binkley chair lift when needed until 2017. Smith was a gentle and joyful soul who was known for doing his job without a complaint.
“Mr. Eugene taught me much. Though a man of few words, he was a man of great influence,” said Travis Williams, who serves as Southeastern’s director of facilities management and who worked with Smith for nearly 20 years. “Mr. Eugene was one of the hardest working and most humble men I have had the opportunity to share life with. I have never heard him complain or utter a negative word. I miss him dearly but have no doubt about his eternity with Jesus Christ because his faith in Jesus beamed from every fiber of his being. I consider myself privileged to call Mr. Eugene my friend and brother in Christ.”
“I didn’t work directly with Mr. Eugene, but I did interact with him in shop through the years. I can say that he always had a joy about him and his love for the Lord was evident,” said Doug Nalley, director of housing at SEBTS. “He would often say to me, ‘How you doin’ Rev.? Do you have a word?’ He always appreciated hearing and learning something about his Lord.”
For the first decade of Smith’s role at SEBTS, he maintained Stealey Hall and Appleby Hall as a custodian, and in the later years of his job, he primarily handled recycling. Smith was a well-known and beloved figure on campus who had a servant spirit and a heart of gold.
Ricky Evans, Smith’s longtime facilities coworker, recounted Smith’s camaraderie with the facilities crew. Evans noted “that something Mr. Eugene would always say is that he loved working with all the young guys in facilities because they kept him feeling young.”
“He always referred to me as ‘Mr. President’ or ‘My President.’ Honestly, I never thought of our relationship that way. Mr. Eugene was my brother and my friend. It was God’s kindness to bring him into my life,” said Akin, who met with Mr. Eugene for an interview to discuss the intersection of faith and work in 2015. The Intersect article and video interview with Smith can be found here.
Smith is survived by Eugene, Jr., Isabelle Smith, five grandchildren: Marlon, Marcus, Orlando, Kirsten and Charmian; and eight great grandchildren: Isaiah, Shontae, Janelle, David, Jason, Abigail, Judah and Joshua.
An open casket viewing will be held on Saturday, Aug. 17 at 2 p.m. at Olive Branch Baptist Church followed by a memorial service at 3 p.m.
Read a reflection on Mr. Eugene by SEBTS professor Dr. Benjamin Quinn here.