R. Terry Smith of Kennesaw was an intelligent and meticulous newspaperman, business executive, avid golfer and devoted husband and father. Smith died Thursday after a hard-fought battle with cancer. He was 64.
Smith had a distinguished career serving Cobb County and the metro Atlanta community, including a 27-year tenure at the Marietta Daily Journal, where he started in sales and eventually became president and chief operating officer.
“Terry had the proverbial ink in his veins and was a sharp newspaper operator,” said current MDJ publisher Otis Brumby III. “Terry focused on the financial aspects of the company and my father, Otis Jr., handled the editorial side. They were a great team for many years and the company experienced tremendous growth and success under Terry’s leadership.”
“The MDJ is a family company and Terry was an indispensable part of our family,” said MDJ General Manager Lee Brumby Garrett. “We grieve with the entire Smith family. He will be greatly missed.”
Smith left the newspaper business in 2009 and joined The Multiple Sclerosis Center of Atlanta.
He had been serving on the center’s board of directors when Dr. William Stuart, center founder and director, hired Smith as the organization’s first chief executive officer, a position he held until his death.
“His organizational skills and his management of funds were probably his greatest contributions,” Stuart said. “Taking care of multiple sclerosis patients is not a lucrative area of medicine and we were close to breaking even most of the time, and he was very good at management and moving money around to keep the center going.”
Smith had family members affected by the disease, which prompted his involvement in the center, Stuart said.
“He contributed greatly to the development and growth of the center, to the point where it’s one of the largest of its kind in the country. It will be hard to replace Terry.”
Those who knew Smith well say he maintained a disciplined and professional approach to his work, while enjoying a good laugh and weekly rounds of golf outside the office.
He was a family man, a devoted member of the Marietta First United Methodist Church and a confidant to many close friends.
“He was extremely loyal and conscientious,” Stuart said. “I trusted him implicitly.”
For the dozen members of “The Golf Group” at the Marietta Country Club, located across from the Overlook community where Smith lived, he was a true brother.
Every Saturday morning, Smith would be on the green, averaging a score in the mid-80s.
“Terry was a cherished member of our group,” golfing buddy and friend Bill Woods said. “We are like brothers, it’s a real loss and he’ll be fondly remembered and never forgotten.”
Smith worked too much to join the retired members of the group on the course during weekdays, but was admired for his “beautiful” drive, Woods said.
“Terry had the most majestic, soaring drive that we were all envious of, it was a thing to watch. He would just make us stand there in awe and the very next shot could be completely sideways, we would always laugh and say never stand to the right of Terry.”
The golf was competitive, but never got in the way of friendship, laughter and good banter, Woods said.
Smith was the gentleman of the group, an intelligent and hard-working man who loved his family, and a true fighter over the last three years as he battled stomach and then brain cancer, Woods said.
Smith was meticulous, wore “the most starched white shirts in the world” and mixed his drinks with the utmost care and precision, he said.
“We always sort of laughed because despite all that precision, he would drink Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. I will definitely miss getting a rise out of him. He’s the first of us to leave us and it’s been a really trying time,” Woods said, adding that Smith was still playing golf up until a few months ago.
“He was such a kind, gentle and caring man and it was such fun to see every side of him and get to know him over the years.”
A Norcross native, Smith graduated from Auburn University in 1976.
He was a Cobb County resident of 38 years, served as a trustee of the Kennesaw State University Foundation, a member of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce and its CEO Roundtable, and served on the board of directors for Signature Bank.
Smith was preceded in death by his parents, Joe and Edna Smith, and is survived by his wife of 42 years, Jackie Smith, their two sons, Neal and William Smith, and five grandchildren.
Smith’s former minister, Dr. Sam Matthews, said for the last 12 years Smith was a devoted and active church volunteer, serving on its finance and staff parish relations committees and teaching Sunday school.
“He was a man of faith who believed God’s presence in a person’s life brought relief and peace amidst the world’s pain and hurt,” Matthews said.
“He was absolutely one of the best people I’ve ever known. He was very, very intelligent, an exceptionally kind person, patient, very open-minded and extremely devoted to his family.”
Matthews said Smith’s leadership, talent, time and generosity made him a valuable part of the congregation and he was often the first person to volunteer whenever a need in the church arose.
Smith and his wife were well loved and always surrounded by people, Matthews said, adding that Smith became a trusted close friend.
“I could confide in him and know he would keep my confidence. That’s important to a minister, to be able to talk to people like that, and he was one of those people you could put total confidence in.”
Terry Smith’s funeral is at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the First Methodist Church of Marietta with visitation from 1 to 2 p.m. prior to the service. The Rev. Julie Boone and Brian Smith officiating.