This will be a memory of mine, but with two separate stories. I was born in Flint, Michigan and lived in Grand Blanc, MI until I was 11 years and Mom and Dad divorced. We were pretty much a typical American family of the time. On Sunday’s Mom would take us to church at the West Side Baptist Church in Grand Blanc. I especially remember these Sunday’s with the sound of the Blackwood Brother’s singing gospel songs on the car radio of our old 57 Buick. This would have been around 1961 or so. And I remember the pastor we had at our church, and man by the name of Brother T. B Smith. He and his family would occasionally would go to members houses and would visit and/or eat dinner. Although I don’t have this memory specifically, I do have pictures that show him at our house at the dinner table. Again, this would have been in the very early 1960’s.
I’m not exactly sure of the year, but sometime in the early 1960’s (I’m thinking maybe 1961) Mom was baptized in the Flint River by Brother Smith and was accompanied by one of her friends Faye Handley, and my Dad. I have pictures showing my Mom in the Flint River with Brother Smith and Faye Handley, as well as my Dad in the corner photo. I also have video of this baptism on 8mm video, so it’s a cherished picture to see.
In 1966 Mom and Dad divorced and we left Grand Blanc for Blytheville, AR. It was the last time I would see our pastor Brother Smith. In fact, by this time, I’m not even sure if we were still attending church every Sunday, because I actually don’t have a recollection of the last time I saw Brother Smith, and it could have been as early as the 1961 or 1962.
Fast forward to 2004. I was photographing a college basketball game at Harding University. It just so happened that an open date had become available for Harding University in their basketball schedule and a game was arranged for them to play out of their conference with a team from Indiana (Indiana Tech). At halftime of the game, everyone gets up and heads to the concession stand and the walkways and entrances to the gym become very crowded. I was standing back away from the crowd and waiting on the 2nd half of the game to start. As the masses headed to the concession stand, I see someone that looks vaguely familiar. And then they become very familiar. I thought to myself, this couldn’t be…could it. Could it be Brother Smith at a basketball game more than 40 years later. I was so surprised I recognized him…I mean I have seen people before and thought, “Wow, they look familiar” only to find out that they just resembled someone rather than me just knowing them.
So in the moments of seeing Brother Smith in this crowd slowly moving towards the concession stand, I yelled, “Hey TB Smith”. He turned and looked at me and came over. Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: “You don’t know who I am do you”.
Brother Smith: “No, I don’t recognize you”.
Me: “Are you T. B. Smith?”
Brother Smith, “Yes, I am.”
Me: “I’m Betty Jarratt’s boy, Wally”.
Brother Smith: “OK, now I know who you are, how did you recognize me.”
Me: “I just have always been able to remember people. Why are you at this game?”
Brother Smith: “I am the team Chaplain, and so I sit with the team on the bench”.
Anyway, it was a weird feeling to see someone from so far away, so far back in the history of my life, and at such an obscure place to see them. It still seems uncanny that our paths crossed again after all these years. It was great seeing him at that time, and the funny thing is…I always think of him as “our” preacher, and still do.