Jerome Wayne Smith, (November 3, 1920-June 9, 2019) was born in Mt. Olive, MS and died at home in Jackson surrounded by his loving family. Raised in Noxapater, MS., he was the second of five children born to Nannie and Ennis Smith. He was a standout athlete earning a basketball scholarship to Wood Jr. College. After Pearl Harbor, he registered for a glider pilot training program and was selected for a potential European invasion.
Following WWII, Jerome enrolled at Ole Miss under the GI Bill and graduated with a degree in education. Jerome had met and married Willa Jean Rutledge (Tupelo), and they lived in GI housing along with her daughter Jean Allen, whose father had died in the war.
Following graduation from Ole Miss in 1948, he taught and coached at Louisville Public Schools. Jean and Jerome had three girls and Jerome adopted Jean. In 1952, Jerome earned his Masters of Science in Educational Administration & Counseling from Ole Miss. The family moved to Jackson in 1952 where he was a guidance counselor at Bailey Junior High. He served as Principal at Bradley Elementary and Green Elementary, and he was selected as the first principal of Callaway High for 14 years.
Following Callaway, he was selected as the Executive Director of the Mississippi Professional Educators (MPE), and the group was successful in working with the Legislature and Governor in passing mandatory five-day sick leave and the first paid health insurance for teachers. Following 10 years at MPE, Governor Kirk Fordice appointed Jerome to be his Education Advisor and Jerome worked with the Governor and the Legislature in initiating the National Board Certified Teacher Program, which awards a $6,000 annual stipend to those who complete the program. Mississippi is one of the nation’s leaders in this program. Before retiring in 2010, he worked 53 years.
In 1996, while working for the Governor, he met Pamela Meyer who worked with the Institutions of Higher Learning having come here from Illinois when her boss, Dr. Tom Layzell, was appointed Commissioner. They were married on May 29, 1999, and they were blessed with 20 years together.
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Willa Jean Rutledge, and they had nearly 50 years of marriage. His grandson, Patrick Walton Vaughan, Jerome’s parents also preceded him in death as well as sisters: Lois Cournoyer (Joseph); Emma Jean Gipson (Norman); and brother, Louis Hughes Smith (Bessie).
Jerome is survived by his wife, Pamela; his daughters: Jean Vaughan Smith, Susan Pratt (Hunter), Nancy Smith all from the Jackson area and Janet Fanning (Herb) from Atlanta. Survivors also include grandchildren: Ashley Vaughan of Jackson, Bradley Pratt of Atlanta (Lelia), McCharen Johnson (Andrew) of Atlanta; Wes, Court and Claire Fanning of Atlanta as well as three great grandchildren: Cole, Abby and Betty Pratt of Atlanta.
He is also survived by his sister, Maudine Nolen (Louisville) and many nephews and nieces who were very dear to him.
Among his many recognitions, Jerome has been honored as President of the High School Counselors’ Association, State Association of Elementary Principals, the State Association of High School Principals, and was recognized for his leadership and service by the MS Gifted Teachers, the Congress of Parents & Teachers, and the MPE. He has also served several terms on the Ole Miss School of Education Alumni Board. In 2015, he was named to be in the inaugural class from the Ole Miss School of Education’s Hall of Fame.
Jerome was a charter member and chair of the Deacons of Ridgecrest Baptist Church and the North Side Rotary where he was a Paul Harris Fellow and member for 39 years. He was a Sunday School teacher at Ridgecrest and Colonial Heights Baptist Church. In 2006, Jerome and Pam joined Christ United Methodist Church and were members of the incredible New Yorker’s Sunday School class taught by York Craig who is an outstanding teacher. Church was always a priority in Jerome’s life.
Jerome’s hobbies included hunting, gardening, traveling, Ole Miss events and sports and visiting with family and friends.
The legacy he leaves for his loved ones is his steadfast faith in his Lord in all circumstances, his humble gratitude expressed to God in prayer before each meal and the example of how to live life as a gentleman. He urged children to seek as much education as possible.
Visitation will be 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 13, 2019 in the Great Hall of Christ United Methodist Church of Jackson with funeral services to follow in the Sanctuary at 11:00 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church at 6000 Old Canton Rd, Jackson, MS 39211 or the University of Mississippi’s School of Education at 406 University Avenue Oxford, MS 38655.