In an age when it's not uncommon for a preacher to move from church to church, the Rev. Horace R. Smith Sr. went against the grain.
The Reverend Smith, who died Monday at age 82, was pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church in Lexington for 60 years. And for 50 years, he also preached on the second and fourth Sundays of each month at Watkinsville Baptist Church, a small congregation near Stamping Ground in rural Scott County.
Asked why his father stayed so long at these two churches, Horace Ray Smith Jr. said, "He believed that's where the Lord wanted him to be, and he was just very connected to these congregations."
And the congregations responded in kind. "That man was as close to God as anyone I know," said longtime Pilgrim member Charles Miller, 90. "When you left church, you had something to remember."
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One of 11 children of a preacher, the Reverend Smith was educated at Tuskegee University in Alabama and Prairie View A&M College in Texas.
In a 1995 interview, the Reverend Smith said he initially "had no intentions of preaching. That was the furthest thing from my mind."
But by age 20, he'd changed his mind. "The divine call was greater than ... the resistance I offered," he said. "I have never lived to regret it. I've had a very, very happy, fruitful ministry."
He became Pilgrim Baptist's pastor in 1949, which met at that time in a small red brick building on Jefferson Street in Lexington.
Through the years, the church and its congregation grew. An education building came in 1968, followed by a new sanctuary in 1970 and a new fellowship hall in 2001.
The Reverend Smith had been in ill health since May and died of a heart condition at UK Healthcare Good Samaritan Hospital, said his son who works with the Arkansas School Boards Association in Little Rock.
Survivors include his wife, Ethel; a sister, Katheryn Smith Stephens of Lexington; and two brothers, William H. Smith of Lexington and the Rev. Charles H. Smith of New Jersey.
Another brother, the Rev. G.M. Smith, who pastored Lexington's Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church for nearly 60 years, died last year at age 87.
The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Pilgrim Baptist Church, with burial in Lexington Cemetery.
Visitation will be 6-8 p.m. Friday at Pilgrim Baptist. Smith & Smith Funeral Home in Lexington is handling arrangements.