Dr. Walter L. Smith

November 25, 2021


Dr. Walter Lee Smith of Tampa, passed away on Thursday, November 25, 2021. A Service of Remembrance will be held on Saturday, December 11, 2021, 11:00 a.m. at Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2101 Lowe Street, Tampa FL 33605, with Rev. Dr. Glenn B. Dames, Jr. officiating. MASKS RECOMMENDED. Interment will follow in Rest Haven Memorial Park Cemetery.

Dr. Smith was born on May 13, 1935, in Tampa, FL to Eva Smith (Reynolds) and guided in life by his mother and stepfather, Rubin Reynolds. His early education was in the Hillsborough County Public School System as well as in Cairo, GA where he went to live with Grandma Suzie. Dr. Smith excelled in school there and by his teenage years he was considered to be a gifted baseball player. Due to an unfortunate incident, he went to live with his maternal Grandpa Walter Lee in Tallahassee for a while and from there with his maternal aunt, Alberta Knight in Harlem, NY. Through his work ethic learned when living with Grandma Suzie, Dr. Smith became gainfully employed at various jobs during the day which paid his for tuition to attend a private school at night. Eventually, he quit school and enlisted in the United States Army during the Korean War. His commanding officers encouraged him to obtain a GED certificate which would qualify him to advance through the military ranks. He returned to Tampa where he did earn the GED. He went on the attend Florida A&M University (FAMU), earning a degree in Chemistry and Biology. Subsequently, he earned a Master’s Degree, and over the years worked in various capacities. Later, he went on the become the seventh President of FAMU from 1977 to 1985. He accomplished many academic and facility expansion projects during his presidency. Dr. Smith earned a Ph.D. from Florida State University where he was honored with a scholarship in his name. As a Fulbright Fellow, Dr. Smith developed higher education programs in the African countries of Malawi and in Soweto, South Africa. He was founding president of FUNDA in 1994-1995, an American style two-year college in Soweto. He authored “Magnificent Twelve,” an historical account of the twelve segregated Black Junior Colleges in Florida. In 2002, Dr. Smith opened a privately held community library in West Tampa. In 2015, Hillsborough County Libraries named a reading room in honor of Dr. Smith at the Robert Saunders Library on Nebraska Avenue.

Dr. Smith was preceded in death by his parents Rubin and Eva Smith; and two brothers, Rubin Smith, and Sergeant Major Ralph Smith.

He leaves to cherish loving memories, his wife, Barbara Abrams Smith, Tampa; children, Col. John L. Smith (ret.) (Teresa), Fayetteville, GA; Andre Smith, Tallahassee, Attorney Salesia Smith-Gordon (Lawrence), West Palm Beach, FL, Walter Lee Smith II (Yolanda), Tracey Abrams Butler (Jeremiah), Tampa; grandchildren, Nicole Smith, Fayetteville, GA, Jonathan Keith “JK” Smith, Manassas, VA, Edward “EA” Smith, and Andrea Smith, Tallahassee, Jesenia Harbin Martinez (Djovanny), Walter Lee Smith III, and Caleb Butler, Tampa; great grandchildren, Kaliyah Samone Smith-Barnes and Raymond Antonio Walker, Fayetteville, GA, Nova Smith, Lakeland, JosieOnna Dai Martinez, and Jianni Danilo Martinez, Tampa; one sister-in-law, Nadine Williams (Eddie Marcus), Bartow; his like-a-son and very special nephew, Cory Renard Brown, Tallahassee; one maternal aunt, Vivian “Mittie” Carr, Tampa; cousins, Barbara Noel and Dorothy Watson, Sarasota; Judge Gregory Mathis (Linda), whom Smith mentored as a rebellious juvenile, Los Angeles, CA; Bruce Carr, Smyrna, DE; Patricia Cherry, Thonotosassa; Janet Dudley, Sandra Reece, Linda Carr, and Sarah Del Rio, Tampa; Earl Lee, Jr., Gladys Gibson and Samuel Lee, Youngstown, OH; Mickie Lee, New York; Dr. Eugene Hardin, Los Angeles, CA, Woodrow Hardin; Kenneth Gaines and Ronald Gaines, Detroit, MI; Bahitah Abdul-Rauf (Brenda) St. Petersburg; goddaughter, Karema Tyms Harris, Tallahassee; three godsons, Tommy Griffin and Attorney Charles Hobbs, Tallahassee, and Gregory Anderson, Los Angeles, CA.

The remains will repose on Friday, December 10, 2021, 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Ray Williams Funeral Home, 301 N. Howard Avenue, Tampa, (MASK RECOMMENDED).

To send flowers to Dr. Walter L. Smith's family, please visit our floral store.


December 10, 2021

4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Ray Williams Funeral Home
301 N. Howard Avenue
Tampa, FL 33606-1508

Service of Remembrance
December 11, 2021

11:00 AM
Allen Temple AME Church
2101 N. Lowe Street
Tampa, FL 33605

Interment following funeral service
December 11, 2021

Rest Haven Memorial Park
4615 East Hanna Avenue
Tampa, FL 33610

© 2022 Ray Williams Funeral Home. All Rights Reserved. Funeral Home website by CFS & TA | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy