William Lawton SmithJune 25, 1928 ~ July 22, 2017 (age 89)
William Lawton Smith was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on June 25th, 1928, which was also his mother Alice’s birthday. Except for two years in Deland as a student at Stetson University, he lived his entire life in Jacksonville. He graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in 1947 where he played football and later served stateside during the Korean War in the United States Navy at NAS Jacksonville.
During his 30-plus year career with Southern Bell Telephone Company, he also found time to work in a leadership role with church music and youth programs at Cedar Hills Baptist Church and at Murray Hill Baptist Church, where he was an active member for over 70 years. After retirement from the phone company he began what was truly a second career of nearly 30 years as a well-known square dance caller with clubs around Duval and Clay counties and guest appearances around the southeast.
Although he traveled the U.S. in RVs, camping with family and friends for decades, his greatest source of recreation and enrichment came from his time on the water. From north Florida’s lakes and rivers to his most-beloved salt marshes and Nassau Sound, Lawton fished from childhood until his physical limitations made it too difficult. He was always happy to be identified as a fisherman and was a true master of putting spotted trout and redfish in the boat.
A quiet, humble man who shunned the spotlight, Lawton and his wife Eleanor spent their married lives serving others unselfishly. Countless yards have been mowed and numerous needs were met as they reached out to those in need around them in true Christian service. Even as aging and health slowed him, he still enjoyed working and socializing, most recently as a volunteer at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Jacksonville.
Lawton battled cancer twice since 2005 and won both times. The past eight months saw more significant health challenges he could not overcome, though he struggled valiantly. He left us at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 22nd, 2017. He was preceded in death by his parents, his two sisters and many life-long friends. Those who remain to cherish his memory are; his wife Eleanor Hubbard Smith, daughter Laura L. Smith, son Mark A. Smith and his wife Portia and his only grandson, Adam Smith (whom he adored), as well as extended family and numerous dear friends. Lawton maintained his sense of humor and quick wit until the very end. We know he would want us to remember him in that light and we would like to think he is “squaring ‘em up” once again. The family wishes to offer special thanks to the Community Hospice Dr. Gaston J. Acosta-Rua Center for Caring and all who supported them in the last difficult months, especially dear friends Tison and Leah Kelly. Also many thanks to their Sunday School class and staff at Westside Baptist Church for their love and assistance over the past two years. A memorial service will take place on Friday, July 28th at 11:00 a.m. at Westside Baptist Church, 7775 Herlong Road, Jacksonville, Florida. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Dr. Gaston J. Acosta-Rua Center for Caring or Westside Baptist Church in Lawton’s name.