By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
Born in Mound Bayou and raised in Renova, Smith grew up knowing that hard work was something that just needed to be done.
“I was raised up working so I don’t mind working,” Smith said. “If I didn’t have to work, I wouldn’t I guess but I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t work. I just worked all my life and most of the time I worked multiple jobs.
“I enjoy working but it was a mandate. What I wanted, I had to work to get.”
Smith grew up with two sisters and a brother on an 80-acre farm owned by his mother and father. His mother worked as a secretary for the extension service while his father tended to the farm.
“We basically ate from our crops,” Smith said. “We raised cows, we raised chickens, and we raised hogs. Then we had gardens — peas, butterbeans, okra, tomatoes, etcetera, and we froze them.”
The family had a smokehouse. They would slaughter hogs and make sausages, ham and pork chops.
It was long, hard work as Smith helped tend to the fields, picking cotton, corn and soybeans
“You worked from sunup to sundown,” said Smith.
Even though the farm received much attention, education was not put on the backburner.
“We weren’t allowed to miss school, period,” Smith said. “We weren’t kept out of school for anything. I was basically most of the time perfect attendance at school.”
Smith spent his formative years attending schools in Renova and Cleveland, making his way to East Side High School.
He played baseball as a first baseman and added in basketball his senior year.
He also was a member of the band and played primarily baritone saxophone.
After graduating, Smith managed land as a part of the former Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service during the summers and attended Alcorn A&M College in the fall and spring, now known as Alcorn State University, where he was a member of the marching and concert bands.
“Initially I thought I wanted to be a medical doctor,” Smith said. “I majored in biology. After I got out of school I started teaching and I hung in it. That’s what I ended up doing for the remainder of my life.”
Smith began teaching science and math classes in Mound Bayou while once again taking up a second job, working at a cucumber sorting facility in Hinds County.
“I was loading them into the truck,” Smith said. “We ran them through a hydro-cooler, we cooled them down, then we put them on a refrigerator unit on a truck and they would ship them to Indiana. I worked there probably four summers and at the same time I was teaching.”
Once Smith married his wife Esther in 1974, he stopped his long commute but kept up working multiple jobs, working as a school bus driver as well as at Baxter while still teaching.
“At Margaret Green I taught science,” Smith said. “I taught a few classes of biology. I taught what they called consumer science — Earth science, life science, and consumer science — and then eventually I began to teach all 7th and 8th graders again, so most of my time it was those transitional age kids.”
It was in 1993 that Smith partnered with his friend Jimmy Williams to open Country Platter, the comfort food restaurant at 700 Ruby St.
“I didn’t know too much about restaurants. It was just something that he wanted to do, and we had already had a little corner store we had gotten in together.
“The building was dilapidated and the lady that owned it had a soul food café. This was Lily’s Café. Everybody came here. I even think Martin Luther King Jr. came here.”
Country Platter has become a local institution and is entering its 27th year of operation.
“We did a few changes here and there but nothing major,” Smith said. “We kind of wanted it to stay like it was.”
Smith doesn’t do any cooking at the restaurant; he simply helps manage the business end. He can be seen sitting near the register addressing customers who walk in and attending to various matters within the restaurant.
Smith recommends Country Platter’s catfish. His personal favorite foods include baked chicken, fried chicken and pork chops.
“I make sure I get my leafy vegetables every day,” Smith added.
Smith has three successful grown children, Dawn, Craig and Xavier who all have inherited in one way or another Smith’s second nature approach to work.
“If you want something, you work for it,” said Smith.
In his spare time, when he can find it, Smith loves watching football.
“This crew right here,” Smith said as he pointed to his Alcorn State hoodie. “Every now and then, my kids like Dallas (Cowboys), so we’ll take a Dallas game or two. I like Dallas pretty good.
Smith and Williams have used their restaurant to give back to the community, helping feed the needy and holding an annual Christmas giveaway for children.
Smith said he has “a few ailments” but walks as much as he can. He estimates he walks seven to eight miles a day counting all the walking around the restaurant.
He said he would love to travel more but it’s difficult to find time to get away from the restaurant.
Smith doesn’t worry about his future too much and lets the chips fall where they may.
“I don’t even set goals,” Smith said. “I don’t. I’ve never set them and maybe that’s not good. My future is just there. Not for me to say. I’ve been blessed to live as long as I have.”