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Thursday, May 23, 2024

James Clyde ‘Jimmy’ Smith Sr., 94, Army veteran who served during World War II

James Clyde ‘Jimmy’ Smith Sr.

OAK ISLAND — One of the last veterans of World War II, James Clyde “Jimmy” Smith Sr., 94, passed away Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020.

Jimmy was born May 28, 1925, to the late Ernest Clyde Smith and Eunice Hoyle Smith in Albemarle, where he grew up. Following high school, Jimmy attended his beloved Duke University, where he played on the men’s tennis team and majored in business. He remained an avid Duke fan the rest of his life, especially of the men’s basketball team. You could often find him in a Duke shirt or hat any day of the week.

The U.S. Army drafted him at age 18 after his freshman year for service in World War II. He completed his undergraduate degree after the war at Catawba College and attended graduate school at the University of Virginia.

Jimmy proudly served his country from September 1943 to August 1945 in combat with the 8th Infantry Division in Normandy, arriving on its beaches in a landing craft a few days after D-Day. While disembarking from the craft, an Army photographer caught an image of Jimmy and his platoon as he glanced at the camera. This famous photo has been published many times by Time Inc., Time-Life Books, Scholastic Press and others telling the story of the D-day invasion.

He garnered two Purple Hearts for combat wounds in the hedgerows of Normandy. In his final combat at the Battle of the Bulge, Germans captured every member of his unit except him. He endured severe frostbite of his feet that frigid winter and was evacuated from the front lines. He later received 100% disability for his combat wounds and foot injuries. He subsequently earned a 3rd Purple Heart for the frostbite as a combat injury and this will be awarded posthumously Jan. 25, 2020.

Following the war and completion of his education, Jimmy worked for more than 20 years for the packaging company, Rexham Industries in Charlotte, in purchasing. He worked for Homelite Corporation, Charlotte, for the remainder of his career.

He was active in leadership of youth sports groups while his children grew up and was always active in his churches, 3rd Presbyterian in Charlotte, Pine Valley UMC in Wilmington and Ocean View UMC in Oak Island.

In his later retirement, sharing his World War II experiences with school groups and the community became his passion. He shared amazing stories of combat, his many near misses and survival in World War II. His story has been featured by T.V. stations and newspapers, and he was a mainstay of the Southport 4th of July Parade and the Wilmington Veteran’s Parade. He was a member of the American Legion. Wearing his World War II Purple Heart Wounded Veteran hat brought him the acquaintance and friendship of many people in stores, lunch spots and other places. Jimmy was charming and charmed as he moved through life and was loved by many.

Jimmy was preceded in death by his parents; his beloved wife, Martha Ann Harbinson Smith; two daughters, Christy Ann Smith Miller (Rick) of Charlotte and Amelia Alta Smith Surrency of Fairbanks, Alaska; and sister, Annie Ruth Smith Kelley of Albemarle.

He is survived by his daughter, Cynthia Ann Smith of Carolina Beach; son, James C. “Jim” Smith Jr., of Little River, South Carolina; granddaughters, Jamie Farmer of Carolina Beach, Kady Farmer of Wilmington and Ashley Miller of Waxhaw; grandsons, Joshua Miller (Emily) of Charlotte and Zackry Surrency of Atlanta, Georgia; great-grandson, Jackson Miller of Charlotte; and several nieces. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 26, at Ocean View United Methodist Church, 8400 E. Oak Island Drive, Oak Island, with a reception following the service in the Fellowship Hall.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the National Kidney Foundation, Finance Dept., 30 East 33rd St., New York, NY 10016; Ocean View United Methodist Church, 8400 E. Oak Island Drive, Oak Island, NC 28465; or Lower Cape Fear LifeCare (formerly Lower Cape Fear Hospice), 1414 Physicians Drive, Wilmington, NC 28401.

Share online condolences with the family at Peacock-Newnam & White Funeral and Cremation Service.

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