Celebrating the life of William Donald Smith, (Ret.) USAF
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Lt. Colonel William Donald Smith, (Ret.) USAF, was born June 21, 1943, and passed away at 8:35 A.M. on July 13, 2019, at the Margaret Dozier Big Bend Hospice House in Tallahassee, Florida. He is survived by his beloved wife of 46 years and 8 months, Nancy Ann Hosford Smith, his daughter Keri Lynn Smith, two sons, Paul DeCarlo and Jared Smith, as well as nine grandchildren, Amanda Gray (Matt), Kaity Willis, Dylan Heflin, Zachary Heflin, Emily Smith, Jonathan Smith, Savannah Smith, Kyla Morse, Leigh Ann Morse, and four great-grandchildren, Bowen Gray, Harper Gray, Case Gray, and Kenadee Gray. He is predeceased by his oldest daughter, Kimberly (Mikki) Kay Heflin and his parents Robert Andrew and Lila Marie Smith. He is also survived by his brother Gary Lynn Smith (Yancie), and nephews Noah Bin Smith and Caspar Liang Smith, of Tucson, AZ.
A man of true courage and impervious honesty, William Donald Smith (affectionately called Billy Don) embodied truth above all virtues, coupled with a droll sense of humor. He grew up “dirt poor” in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Clarkson Street near the old airport. His mother always said he was born too fast, since he came kicking and screaming into the world in the elevator at the old Little Rock Baptist Hospital. His determined spirit blossomed in his youth. After attending Kramer Elementary School and Eastside Jr. High, he entered Little Rock Central High School at the height of racial tensions and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on integration. When Governor Orville Faubus defiantly shut down Central High School, Billy Don spent tenth grade at T.J. Raney High School, then returned to Little Rock Central High when it made national headlines by reopening as an integrated high school. He excelled academically, was popular with fellow students, a member of the Key Club, and an officer in the Marching Band. Billy Don was gifted with many talents, which included a musical ability to play the trumpet and coronet. He was chosen the 1961 Most Outstanding State Trumpet Player from Arkansas and was awarded a full musical scholarship to college. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Technology from University of Arkansas in Little Rock. His graduate degrees included an MA degree in Human Relations and Supervision, and an EdS degree in Counseling from Louisiana Tech University. He was a skilled fisherman and hunter all of his life, taking only what he needed for food, never for trophies.
On March 17, 1967, Lt. Colonel Smith entered the United States Air Force Officer Training School and Strategic Air Command Pilot Training. He flew seven different aircraft, including the C-7 in Vietnam and the KC-135 jet tanker in Thailand. His service in Vietnam involved multiple exposures to Agent Orange including being sprayed directly in the face one day when he left the chow hall. He was an instructor pilot in the KC-135 jet tanker and became a SAC Command Pilot. Lt. Colonel Smith worked as the SAC Operations Management Director; an Air Operations Officer at Blytheville AFB in Arkansas; the Air Force Maintenance Commander for the 317th Field Training Detachment for the Military Airlift Command in Charleston, SC (which included USAF Special Operations forces until 1990); a Tactical Airlift Pilot; and the SAC Deputy Controller at Eighth AF Headquarters in Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. He completed Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff School, and Air War College. His many military awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with Two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, AF Outstanding Unit Award with Two Oak Leaf Clusters, the National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with Silver Oak Leaf Cluster, AF Overseas Short Tour Ribbon, AF Longevity Service Award Ribbon with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon with Bronze Service Star, AF Training Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, and a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. In 1979-1980, Lt. Colonel Smith was named the Air Force’s Field Training Commander of the Year, a prestigious and highly competitive award.
Billy Don was a lifetime member of the VFW and the Military Order of World Wars, and a member of the American Legion, the Bristol Lions Club, and Toastmasters. He was a former member of Dorchester Presbyterian Church in Summerville, SC, and a member of Grace United Methodist Church of Hosford, FL.
After retiring from active duty on August 31, 1989, Lt. Colonel Smith worked as a veterans’ counselor for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder victims in Charleston, SC. He also taught Air Force Junior ROTC at Garrett High School, and at Stall High School in Charleston, SC, until 2006, where he shaped the lives of many young students. One of his students said, “When we all go, we should hope to have the same character and legacy.” Another student said, “He was more than just a man…he was an educator who had compassion, integrity, and honesty.”
Billy Don retired with his wife, Ann, to fulfill their country home dreams in Hosford, FL, where he encouraged his children and grandchildren to find peace and quiet from worldly things. He loved his wife and children with a deep abiding love, and taught them about God, carpentry, outdoor survival skills, how to skillfully and safely shoot guns, and what it means to be truthful. In a speech Billy Don once gave, he quoted Benjamin Franklin, who said, “Honesty is the best policy” and George Washington, who also said “I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.” Then Billy Don said “What I wish they had said is that honesty is the only policy.” A humble and honest American hero has now left his earthly home to reside in Truth with his friend Jesus.
Funeral arrangements are provided by Charles McClellan Funeral Home, Quincy, FL. Services will be Friday, July 19, 2019, at 10:00 A.M. at the old Weslyan Methodist Church in Hosford, Florida, immediately followed by interment at the Tallahassee National Cemetery on Apalachee Parkway in Tallahassee, FL. Dr. Dan Wells, Pastor, Grace UMC, will officiate. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Lions Club Foundation at lionsclubs.org.
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