Flags pay tribute to William Smith

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Features Editor

American flags lined the streets of Brundidge yesterday in memory and in honor of one of the town’s true American patriots.

William Smith died Friday, Feb. 2, 2001 at the age of 87 and members of the Brundidge Lions Club posted the flags in tribute to him as his funeral procession made its way down Main Street.

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Nothing would have made him prouder.

"If anyone ever deserved a tribute like that, it was William Smith," said Tommy Strother, long-time friend and former Lions Club member. "William was the most service-oriented person I have ever known. And, he was a true patriot in every sense of the word. He was proud of his country and he was proud of his service to his county as a member of the Navy Seabees during World War II.

If anyone had anything detrimental to say about the United States, they had better not say it in earshot of William."

Smith loved the flag and all that it stands for; he was instrumental in starting the Lions Club flag project and he was the one who kept it going, Strother said.

For more than30 years, the Brundidge Lions have been "putting out the flags" on patriotic holidays and, even as Smith’s health began to fail him, he still considered it his duty and his honor to be a part of putting out and taking up the flags.

But, his commitment to the Lions Club and to his community went far beyond posting the flags.

Smith was a charter member of the Lions Club and would have been recognized for 50 years of service in April 2001.

He served with the Lions Club in every capacity on the local level several times and was district governor for South and Central Alabama in 1987-88.

Smith was voted the outstanding Lion so many times that he was fondly called, "Mr. Lion."

"Whenever there was a project or an activity, the club president would go around the table asking for volunteers and you would hear all kinds of excuses, me included," Strother said. "But, in all those years, I never heard William say that he couldn’t help. He would be there when no one else was."

Strother said many times Smith would close his hardware store to go and deliver wheelchairs where they were needed.

"For a time, our club provided wheelchairs as one of our projects," he said. "William was a leader in that project and he never refused to make a delivery. He was just that kind of person. He was the most unselfish person I have ever known."

The Lions Club flag project is its fund raiser for the Alabama Lions Club sight program.

"William was a strong supporter of the sight program and he worked diligently with it so that those who need glasses could get them and those who need treatment for vision problems could get it," Strother said. "There is just no way to tell how many people have been helped though the Lions Club sight program."

Through his work with the Lions Club, Smith was able to serve his country, his community and fellowman.

His faith in God was evident in all that he did, Strother said.

In a recent newspaper interview with Smith, he said that at age 87, he was starting to give out of air.

"I can’t do like I used to," he said about posting the flags. "I give out of breath too quick, but I still want to do what I can to honor my country. Helping put out the flags is the best way I know how."

On the day of Smith’s funeral, his fellow Lions honored him the best way they knew how. They put out the flags as a final salute to "Mr. Lion."