Carl Smith Jr. was generous. He was generous with his time, his money and his kindness. Smith died on Monday, but throughout his 96 years in Covington, he touched many lives; whether he was secretly donating money to a family in need, donating his time to make repairs at a friend’s home or his church or sharing his wealth of knowledge and love with his family.
"He was a sweet, sweet man," daughter-in-law Irene Smith said. "He was always a gentleman, and I never heard him say a single unkind thing about anyone."
Carl’s son Billy Smith said Carl had a talent with machines and an ability to tinker, which allowed him to make a career in the electric repair and supply business, but also led him to make a habit out of helping others. Irene said he fixed things at First United Methodist Church for years. Carl’s grandson Chris Smith said he found some of Carl’s old invoices, where he charged a person $1 to fix an iron and a $3 service charge to go to any house in the county.
"He helped everyone,customers and employees. He would personally loan customers money if they couldn’t afford items," Chris said. "Recently, a women needed a heater, and couldn’t afford it, and he gave her a loan, because he wanted to make sure she and her family had heat."
Irene said Carl, like so many men who grew up during the depression, was a self-made man who made his own path. Carl began with a small appliance repair shop out of his garage on Floyd St., before opening Covington Electric on the square, which was a community staple for 25 years, Irene said. He then opened Newton Electric Supply, which has been open for 43 years and expanded to a second store in McDonough.
Although Carl worked hard for what he earned, he didn’t hesitate to share what he had with others. Fellow FUMC member Sam Ramsey said Carl’s generosity was only matched by his humbleness.
"A lot of things he did, he didn’t really want people to know about. He helped people out behind the scenes and didn’t want the credit. That’s the way I remember him in the church and in Kiwanis club: always behind the scenes supporting others," Ramsey said. "He like people and enjoyed people. He felt very fortunate for the success of his business and he wanted to give back to folks."
Even though Carl preferred to work behind the scenes, life-long friend Charles King, who is over 90 years old himself, said Carl would step to the front when necessary.
"He could be depended on to take the lead at Kiwanis, whenever we had to come with money for anything. He was very generous and was always as friendly as he could be. I thought most highly of Carl," King said.
Carl’s list of accomplishments run long and span the spectrum of Covington life. He served on the Covington City Council from 1953 to 1956; on the board of the First National Bank of Newton County for 25 years; as the president of the Covington Kiwanis Club; as the chairman of the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce Board from 1958 to 1959; as Exalted Ruler of B.P.O. Elks Club Lodge 1806; and as Worshipful Master of the Masonic Golden Fleece Lodge No. 6.
Carl was also an avid fisherman and golfer, often fishing at his home at Jackson Lake and fishing three times a week for the last 20 years. Irene said one of his greatest golf thrills was winning a golf tournament held in his honor at the age of 90.
Billy and Chris said despite all of their father’s accomplishments, Carl was the most proud of his family.
"Family was his biggest pride and joy. He loved his business and his church, but he always bragged about his family," Chris said. "He taught me so much and trusted me to help him with the business and with his personal business. He helped me grow."
Carl's granddaughter Fleeta Baggett said her a grandfather was a great man.
"He was just an everyday hero. He was a quiet, softspoken man, but he was an everyday hero," Baggett said.
Carl’s dedication to the community and public service has definitely passed down through his family. Bill served as Newton County Commission Chairman from 1981 to 1992 and on the Covington City Council from 1979 to 1980. Chris is running for city council in the fall.
Those who knew Carl best were generous with the kind words they used to describe him and universally said he would be missed.
"I knew him all my life. He was always very positive and very upbeat about life and when someone needed help, he was willing and ready," Ramsey said. "I’m going to miss him."