Remembering J. Smith Lanier, II
Smith and Betty Lanier and I had one of our earliest conversations in the fall of 1980. They were my hosts for Sunday dinner one day after I supplied the pulpit at Spring Road Christian Church. In front of their fireplace and at the dining room table that afternoon, we talked about our families, Spring Road Christian Church, Point University (then Atlanta Christian College) and the work of our Lord, in general. It was the first of many conversations on these and related topics in the decades that followed.
On several occasions during my years of service as president of my alma mater (from 1993 until 2006), Smith Lanier joined me for meetings with representatives of foundations as we sought support for the Hathcock Center and other projects on our campus in East Point. Smith’s joining in these meetings was of great significance. As a result of work he had previously done on behalf of the Warm Springs Foundation and other organizations, he already knew the people with whom we met. His presence spoke volumes.
One day in the mid-1990s, Smith and I met for lunch near the Atlanta Airport. I had suggested one of the fancier restaurants in the area, but he indicated that a barbecue restaurant on Virginia Avenue would be fine with him. I asked for a vegetable plate. Smith ordered chicken. After the waitress brought our meals, Smith commented on the generous serving on his plate and asked if I would share some of the chicken. When I indicated the barbecued chicken looked really good, he asked me if I preferred the light or dark meat. We went on to talk about a major project that afternoon, but his question about sharing the chicken on his plate was consistent with his spirit throughout all of the years I knew him. In small or large matters, how could he be helpful?
On a homecoming Sunday at Spring Road Christian Church more than a decade ago, I surprised Smith and Betty by presenting the Founders Award to them. My words of tribute on that day and other expressions of gratitude that I made publicly and privately were inadequate. So much support was given so quietly.
When I spoke with Betty and other members of the Lanier family following his memorial service at Spring Road Christian Church on December 23, I commented that Smith was without a doubt one of the godliest people I have ever known. He was godly in his commitments and in his actions. He was a great and humble man – a personal hero of mine and a thoroughly committed disciple of Jesus Christ. Smith’s impact on Point University and the kingdom of God, in general, is incalculable.
Click here to listen to the memorial service for J. Smith Lanier, II.
By: R. Edwin Groover, Ph.D., Chancellor Emeritus