NEWBERRY — He was known for working with many local families during times of loss and now the county is mourning his loss.
James O. Smith was known for his smile and compassion but the public servant was also known for working some of the most notable deaths in the county.
After a lengthy illness that stole his career, Smith died just after 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Smith worked as deputy coroner and coroner for over 25 years. He was also a member of the Newberry City Fire Department for over 30 years as a volunteer and many years as secretary of the Newberry City Fire Department Volunteer Company.
In addition, he also helped family members during times of sadness through his over 45 years of work at Whitaker Funeral Home.
Smith was also well known in the S.C. Coroners Association and highly recognized by the organization.
“James was well-known and respected by all the coroners in the state. He was admired and revered by many and will certainly be missed,” said Newberry County Coroner Craig Newton, who was elected coroner after Smith resigned due to health issues.
Chief Deputy Coroner Lewis Lee worked in the fire service and coroner’s office with Smith “for quite some time” and he says Smith brought caring to the coroner’s office.
“We have lost a real good person,” said Lee.
Newberry Police Chief Jackie Swindler says that Smith was a true public servant.
“He was friendly, kind, compassionate and gentle,” said Swindler, adding that Smith was pleasant to work with. “His intention was to do right and treat others right. He was appreciative of others who helped and thanked and recognized them.”
“As coroner he was always willing to help and he was a community leader,” said Newberry Fire Chief Keith Minick. “It was and to know him and be apart of his career.”
Although we had been friends prior to either of us being elected by the people, we really grew close and got to know each other through a great working relationship, said Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster.
“James O. was a great guy with a great sense of humor,” said Foster. “He was all about Newberry County and all for Newberry County. There is no telling how many people he helped without taking credit or people knowing about it. If there was a family in need or there was a cause, he was often the first to step to the plate. However, most endearing is he was always kind to our children and never failed to remember them on special occasions. Simply put, he had a good heart.”
Funeral services will be held for Smith on Saturday and will include the use of the Newberry Fire Department Honor Guard.