William J. and Rev. Shirley Smith are Today’s Honorees

The Mission of the William J. & Reverend Shirley M. Smith Scholarship Fund is to provide financial support to an underserved collegiate population at Delaware State University.

The Message of the William J. & Reverend Shirley M. Smith Scholarship Fund is with faith, perseverance and integrity anyone can make it.

The Value of the William J. & Reverend Shirley M. Scholarship fund is that it provides financial support to B/C second-year students. Statistics show that financial support is a barrier for some collegians, particularly, those of modest means. This challenge decreases retention rates at universities across the United States, especially historically black colleges and universities. This scholarship supports the collegian, university and community by serving as a resource for inspiration and financial support.

WilliamJSmithWILLIAM J. SMITH, SR. arrived in Delaware as a migrant worker at age 9. Along with his father, a crew boss,and other family members, he came to pick potatoes, beans and tomatoes. Due to the unexpected illness of his mother, Viola M. Pearson the family was forced to stay longer than expected. Missing school so that he could earn money to contribute to household expenses and assist with the care of younger siblings, William J. often missed school – thus putting him behind in his education.

One day his English teacher told him that he was the stupidest boy she had ever seen because he could not successfully answer her question. In less than twenty years, the college administrator became his next door neighbor. In the ninth grade at 16 years old, he decided to drop out of high school. Working on farms 15-17 hours a day 7 days a week while earning $58 per week, he learned the value of hard work.

At a young age he met Shirley M. Taylor. On June 11, 1960, they married. With little skills, but great faith he started his own business in 1961 after being denied a 25 cent raise by his employer because he would earn the same amount as his white co-workers. He quickly discovered that being a hard worker was not enough for the demands and skill sets required for his new undertaking. After hours of studying his first floor plan he fell asleep at the table overwhelmed, exhausted and confused. While sleeping, he was taught by God to read the plan. When he awoke, he had clarity, understanding, and peace…and the rest is history.

He has since worked on homes in some of Dover’s select neighborhoods and commercial buildings. This includes homes in Wild Quail, Pennwood, Fox Hall, Woodbrook, and Garrison Lake. Some of the commercial properties include Pittsburgh Paint, Dover Mall, Paradee Oil Company and their properties, Wesley College, and the former discount stores Grants and Nichols. A few church buildings include Whatcoat United Methodist and the addition of Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal. A standout project is the Firemen’s Memorial Monument located on Park Drive, Dover. He has also worked in Maryland and Pennsylvania. William and Shirley, who literally work along side of him on jobs at night, built a small business that has contributed to Delaware’s economic development and well being of Dover families by employing up to 35 employees over the course of Smith Masonry Incorporated’s 49-year history.

Committed to the growth and services provided by non-profits, he has often volunteered his talent and resources to non-profits that lead to the naming of the William Jefferson Smith Community Hall, which is located in Hartly, DE. This building is a part of Emmanuel AME Church, which is where he served as trustee for over 20 years until his wife became a pastor of Byrd’s AME Church located in Clayton in 1994.

RevShirleySmithREVEREND SHIRLEY M. SMITH, also a high school dropout and teenage wife and mother, easily understands and has great compassion for people who have experienced rejection and pain. Unlike her siblings, she never met nor knew the name of her father. A turbulent relationship with her mother led to her leaving home at an early age. Seeking a safe haven, she sought peace and truth by surrendering to the love of Christ at age 12.

Early in life an internal prompting made her ponder the destruction of mankind. A witness to verbal, emotional and alcohol abuse, as a teen, she often found herself questioning and challenging adults to make better choices. Haunted by her own shadow of loneliness, she often found herself puzzled by life and its many dimensions of uncertainty and instability.

Committed to her childhood dream of being a good wife and mother, she brought commitment and stability to her family. Holding on to the honor of love, commitment and tradition, she helped her husband William work on the farm and later build a business. Even while pregnant, many nights she helped harvest crops to add income to their household. Once Smith Masonry, Incorporated was launched, she would join him on the jobsite—toting bricks and blocks—to ensure that deadlines were met. She later became the company’s secretary.

Although a missionary president for many years, she revisited the internal pull to make a greater impact in the lives of people who were being tormented by low self esteem, alcohol and drugs and a broken past. Alone, she took a seven-day spiritual journey to Jerusalem. Shortly thereafter, she surrendered to the call to bring love, support and healing to those broken in spirit.

Unqualified, but determined and focused, she returned to James H. Groves High School to earn her high school diploma at age 38. On her 46th birthday, she received a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Delaware State University. At 50, she earned a Bachelor in Theology from Christian Life College of Theology. Her mission started out teaching decision making skills to prison inmates and officiating morning services at Kent Convalescent Center, now known as Green Valley Pavilion.

After pastoring for 11 years, she became known as “A Pastor with a Heart for the People.” Her ministry reached among others, single mothers, alcoholics and drug addicts. Her motto is Everybody is Somebody.

Some of her other accomplishments include being a featured speaker in a series among nationally acclaimed speakers at Delaware State University for Black History Month, preaching at the 76th Session of the Delaware Annual Conference, serving as host pastor for the Wilmington District Delaware Annual Conference and being the first African American female to pray at the Memorial Day Veteran’s Program in Smyrna.

William J. and Reverend Shirley M. Smith, Sr., have five grown children, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Visit The Smith Legacy for more information.

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