One of our local, good old boys has left us and all who knew him will be sorry to learn of his death on Sunday, April 5, 2009.
Lt. Ray Smith had retired from the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office with 30 years of service. Many of his duties included serving as bailiff for deceased Superior Court Judge Clarence Vaughn. After leaving the department, Lt. Smith lived quietly in Olde Town Conyers, where he remained close to his family and friends.
Having served with Lt. Smith in Judge Vaughn's court, I knew him well enough to give him the nickname "Old Fox." Ray Didn't have a lot of formal education, but he was well read, kept himself well informed about current affairs, and had enough diplomas from police schools he attended to paper the walls of his apartment.
He had animal instincts, was clever and crafty like a fox, worldly wise, and street smart. He was a careful observer of human nature, had diplomatic skills and could easily deflect courtroom conflicts. Ray Smith knew and loved people. He performed his police duties in a professional manner with courtesy and kindness toward everyone he met. Citizens attending court in Rockdale County during Ray's many years of service will recall him as the friendly uniformed officer in Judge Vaughn's reception area and in his courtroom.
Lt. Smith was a retired soldier, deputy sheriff and a member of the American Legion. He was a patriotic American who, in his retirement, lived a simple life in the community where he was born in 1932. He was versed in local history and had many stories to tell about his early years in the area around Oglesby Bridge Road and the South River. He hunted and fished in that part of the county and used to ride a mule-drawn wagon hauling corn from the fields to the mill across the South River.
Ray was an animal lover and often spoke about his mules, chickens and pigeons. He spoke with fond memories of the old mule barn in Olde Town Conyers. I recall one time seeking information about a stray pigeon that took up temporary residence under my barn roof. I called Ray asking what I should do about this bird.
Ray told me, "Be patient, the bird was probably a racing pigeon that got tired or lost and he would leave on his own after resting." I tossed out some corn and, sure enough, in a few days the pigeon had refreshed himself and flew off continuing his journey to his loft ... just as the lieutenant predicted!
Ray Smith was also a "horse trader." Nothing pleased him more than visiting a local pawn shop and finding a "treasure," usually some unusual firearm in excellent condition. He enjoyed trading with friends and collecting the unusual. Ray liked swapping weapons and stories. He was most happy when going to meet his daughter and young grandson for lunch at a local buffet.
In one of our last telephone conversations, Ray reminded me that we were long overdue for lunch together at Pa-Pa's for some chicken and dumplings. I promised him I was available when he was well enough to go with me.
Funeral services were held for Ray on April 8 at Wheeler Funeral Home on Brown Bridge Road. A dedicated, devoted public servant has gone to a well-deserved rest in the kingdom of Heaven. Rest in peace, my friend, rest in peace.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.