James Lewis Smith, affectionately known to many as Smokey and Tree Digger, was born on March 18, 1942, in Oak Grove, VA to the late Russell Howard Smith and Novella Clarice Smith. James Lewis accepted Christ at an early and joined the Little Zion Baptist Church.
If you asked James Lewis where he was from, he’d smile and with a twinkle in his eye say, “I’m from down in Virginia, where the green grass grows. You heard of Jimmy Reed haven’t ya?” James Lewis had a light-hearted, good-natured, and witty spirit. When he would say, “listen at me and listen careful,” you knew that he was about to speak wisdom and knowledge as well as give you sound advice.
James Lewis loved his siblings and would often find himself riding around to check to see how each was doing. He would always look forward to hearing his sister Estelle call out “baby bro” as he was coming up the hill past her house. You could find him outside yelling up the steps to Abby to see what numbers they were going to play. He would always look forward to visiting his sister Yvonne and making sure she had anything she needed. He would spoil his younger sister Sally and let her drive his new cars anywhere she wanted, especially if it was to take his mother shopping. It was with his brother Lawrence (Jughead) where he found his most mischief. Most days they were good boys and would work together cutting wood for their parents while Albert would sit in the house and pretend to be too cold to help. Other days they made sure to find fun. One would keep the fruit man distracted while the other would steal fruit from the back of his truck and hide it in the woods. They got brave and tried it with a hind quarter of beef once. The meat was too heavy and the boys were caught trying to drag it. They found themselves hiding in the woods instead of fruit that time.
He was a hard worker and a hustler. He worked for many years with Ingleside Nursery where he would dig trees. He ran his own beauty supply store and dry cleaners before moving on to be a produce vendor at various farmers markets in Washington D.C. He was well known and well-loved at all of the markets. He loved meeting new people and often looked forward to checking in with his regular customers. His favorite person to meet was former D.C. Mayor, Marion Barry. He would show his photo to anyone, often more than once, and say that’s a bad man right there. James Lewis was also an active member of the Oak Grove Fire Department for years before retiring and becoming a charter member.
James Lewis married his loving wife, Ester, on October 16, 1965. He was a family man who loved finding ways to establish his own special relationships with his wife and each of his children. He was full of surprises and his family never knew what he may come home with each day. For instance, he purchased a pony, named Billy, for his children and owned a racehorse for a while. At one point he even purchased an airplane. He had special bonds with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well. He would take the boys to work the produce stands and would spoil the girls. You would often catch him sneaking $10 in their hands when he thought no one was looking. He would follow them down to the store to put gas in their cars and send them on their way after saying, “don’t tell your mama.” He often treated his nieces and nephews with the same care that he would his own children and grandchildren. He would check on them just as much and always made sure to know what they were up to and that he was there if they needed him.
He was full of stories and always had a joke or riddle ready. When he had few words, James Lewis always found a way to show how much he cared through his actions. If he knew you, he was good to you. If he didn’t know you, he would make sure you knew him and that he knew everything about you so that he could call you a friend by the end of the conversation. He would call anyone at any hour, often using the excuse that he called by mistake, but he really just wanted to ask where you were and to tell you to be safe. He would stop by your house with the excuse of dropping off produce but it was really his way of checking in to make sure you were ok. When that big white van was parked in front of Stop In, you knew James Lewis was there playing numbers and keeping up with the goings and comings of the town. If there was something going on at his house, he would make sure to send plates down to anyone who was working in the store that night. He was a man who made sure to look out for others without expecting anything in return.
James Lewis was preceded in death by his parents, Howard and Novella Smith, his brother, Russell Jr., and his sisters, Estelle (“Boodie”) Maiden and Alice Laverne (“Abby”) Tate.
He leaves to cherish his memories his loving wife of 56 years, Ester Smith; five daughters Crystal Saunders (Jerome), Kimberly McNair (Teddy), Celane Lewis (Larry), Erniece Tyler (Keith) and Jawanda Lee (Easter); sons James “Torrey” Smith, Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Smith (Lori); Travon “TJ” Johnson; two brothers Lawrence “Jughead” Smith (Doris), William “Albert” Smith; two sisters Linda “Sally” Dickerson (Harold), and Annette “Yvonne”Smith; 15 grandchildren; 26 great grandchildren; close friends Louis Payne, Theodore Lomax and Gerald Willis; a host of many nieces, nephews, family.
Home going service for James Lewis Smith of Colonial Beach, Virginia who departed this life on Sunday, January 9, 2022, will be held on Friday, January 14, 2022 at 12 Noon in the sanctuary of the Little Zion Baptist Church, 7748 Leedstown Road, Oak Grove, Virginia.
Interment will follow in the Smith Family Cemetery, Foxhall Road, Colonial Beach, Virginia.
Mr. Smith remains may be viewed from 4PM until 6PM on Thursday, January 13, 2022 in the chapel of the WELDON-FISHER FUNERAL HOME and a WALK-THROUGH VIEWING from 10AM until service time on Friday at Little Zion Baptist Church.
** Mandatory MASK and Temperatures** will be required.