On March 29, Pine Bluff police responded to a call at the intersection of Howard Drive and Tulip Street where a retired Pine Bluff School District teacher was found dead inside a vehicle. As someone who dedicated more than 30 years of his life to education, Terry Smith, 64, was loved by many.
An outpouring of emotion from the community led to a balloon release Tuesday night at Pine Bluff High School in his memory.
No arrests have been made in his death, which has been ruled a homicide.
The remembrance ceremony was organized by Robbie Williams, who worked in the district with Smith. Also gathered were close family and friends, former students, colleagues, Mayor Shirley Washington and Go Forward Pine Bluff CEO Ryan Watley. They met around the flag pole at Pine Bluff High to pay tribute to Smith by recalling memories of how he touched the lives of those he encountered.
During his 33 years in education, Smith taught English at Belair Elementary School, Jack Robey Junior High School and Pine Bluff High School. He was also an adjunct English instructor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
“Students and fellow educators who spent time in his classroom describe him as a dedicated English teacher who cared deeply about his students,” Washington said. “He would help them in any way possible. He was always connected. He was always a part of the family, and I guess I feel and understand that family connection because I too was a part of this district for 32 years. Once you connect with this district and become a family member, you are forever a member of this family. So is Terry Smith.”
Frank Anthony, who served as superintendent for the Pine Bluff School District during 12 years of Smith’s tenure, talked about Smith’s teaching style and how he was able to manage the classroom, entertain and keep the students at the edge of their seats.
“He made an impact on the lives of thousands of children,” Anthony said.
As a former student of Smith, Watley cosigned Anthony’s statement by reflecting on the techniques that Smith used to gain popularity with the students while challenging their minds. He said one thing Smith can be remembered for is his love for foreign cars and the green Lexus he drove. He said Smith used his car to bridge the gap between the students.
“Mr. Smith provided off-campus lunch for students during a time when their parents couldn’t bring them lunch,” Watley said. “He would do this as a reward for students who weren’t initially receptive to his teaching, so he had classroom management, and he knew how to entertain. Mr. Smith provided an incentive to curb discipline problems and the lack of academic interest, so he had them at the edge of their seat because they wanted off-campus lunch.”
Watley recalled being taught sentence graphing and indentation -- lessons he said Smith will be remembered for due to his passion for them and mastery of them.
“Mr. Smith was accountable for the lessons he taught, and it is demonstrated through the many positive lives he has impacted through his instruction and compassion,” Watley said. “As a revelation to the present teachers, Mr. Smith nor I ever thought I would be giving remarks about his passion -- funny but true. It was his fair and equitable advanced pedagogy that provided the words for this unexpected occasion. That should inspire you to ensure your students will have something to say.”
Former student Byrone LeVeaux and former colleague Cassandra Moore sang in dedication to Smith’s legacy. Balloons were released by Shadayja Bush, Smith’s daughter.
Funeral services will be held at 2:30 p.m. April 13 at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Willisville, Arkansas.