honoree: Reverend Hoke Smith
By Tia Lynn Ivey
Reverend Hoke Smith, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Madison for the last 30 years, is among this year’s honorees at the annual Living Legacy Gala this September. Hoke is being honored in the religion category this year for his dedicated service and spiritual guidance to the local community.
“It’s a honor to be recognized especially from my peers in Morgan County,” said Reverend Smith.
Smith stressed how grateful he is to all the friends, family, and parishioners who supported him and his ministry throughout his life.
“It takes more than just one person to be successful,” noted Smith. “A leader cannot be a leader without followers. To all those who contributed to my success, I thank all them for trusting in my leadership. Because of their loyalty and commitment to the ministry and community as a whole, white and black alike, I have been very blessed from all those who came to be a part of this ministry. And of course, I couldn’t have done any of this without my wife, Annie.”
In addition to faithfully leading Calvary Baptist church for the last three decades, Smith has played a vital role in serving the community through various charity efforts, including the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner at Morgan County High School. Every year, Smith and his wife, Annie Cotton Smith, are inspired by the Bible to do this outreach for the community every Thanksgiving. Smith reflects on two scriptures in particular while organizing the Community Thanksgiving meal. The first is found in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” The second passage is found in Matthew 25:35-40: “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters; you were doing it to me!”
“This is about mankind from all walks of life,” added Reverend Smith. “Someone once said, ‘Never look down on anyone unless you are picking them up.’ I always ask the Lord to order my steps in His word and I try to live by those standards.”
Smith also penned an autobiography detailing his life’s journey entitled “The Lifter of My Head.”
Smith’s memoir chronicles segments of his life from early childhood to adulthood, focusing on the educational struggles he had to overcome against the backdrop of southern segregation and the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement of the era. Smith, who began as a straight-A student, found himself struggling academically after difficult incident. But to find out what it was, you’ll have to buy the book, said Smith. However, the main premise of the book is rising above unfortunate circumstances.
“The main thesis is not accepting failure,” said Smith. “I refuse to fail. Failure was not an option for me and I don’t want it to be an option for anybody else.” Smith hopes the book will inspire people to rise above their circumstances and persevere toward greatness. “I want to try to encourage people, especially in the black community, especially the young men, to embrace their history, so they don’t have to use it as an excuse to be a failure. Don’t forget the history. It’s important. Don’t forget your history and don’t make the same mistakes over again.”
As Hoke’s life and ministry are highlighted during the upcoming Living Legacy Gala on Saturday, Sept. 16, Hoke hopes young people can learn from his story.
“You want young people learn from those who have gone before you, those who have already travelled the road ahead. There is nothing new under the sun,” said Smith. “If they follow the pattern of other successful people, they will have the same outcomes. I would challenge young people today to learn from the mistakes of others instead of having to make mistakes all on their own. Look where others made mistakes and don’t repeat them. Look at the good decisions people made that led to success, and repeat those choices.”