GREENSBORO -- The Rev. Dr. William Cheney Smith Jr., of Greensboro, beloved pastor to hundreds for more than half a century, died peacefully at his home May 13, 2013, following a period of declining health.
Dr. Smith, 85, a resident of Friends Home Guilford, was pastor emeritus of Greensboro's Congregational United Church of Christ, which he served as senior minister for nearly 10 years. His ministry spanned six decades and also included work in college chaplaincy, teaching and student leadership, as well as nearly a dozen interim pastorates following his retirement from Congregational UCC.
Funeral will be held Friday, May 17, at 11 a.m. at Congregational UCC, 400 W. Radiance Drive, conducted by the Rev. Julie Peeples, senior minister. The family will greet friends in the church fellowship hall following the service. Private burial will be in Gretna, VA.
Dr. Smith, a native of Rome, GA, was a Marine Corp veteran, having served in China near the end of World War II, and throughout his ministry he maintained a keen interest in local, national and world affairs. While serving as pastor of Durham's Pilgrim United Church of Christ (1970-80), he was elected to the Durham City Council. And wherever he lived, he was active in a myriad of civic affairs, such as United Way and Urban Ministry, blood drives and CROP Walks.
When his ministry led him from the Baptist church to the United Church of Christ in 1970, Dr. Smith was quickly tapped for leadership roles in his new denominational home. In 1991 he as elected president of the UCC's Southern Conference, embracing UCC churches in North Carolina and Tidewater Virginia, and when the national UCC's General Synod met in Norfolk in 1991, he was chair of its local arrangements committee.
On another occasion he served as a delegate to General Synod, and he was constantly called on for service on important boards and committees in both church and community settings. In1990 he received the North Carolina Council of Churches' Outstanding Service Award.
Dr. Smith was born Aug. 1, 1927, the son of the late William Cheney and Azzie C. Smith. He attended Darlington School and Mercer University prior to Marine duty and then graduated from Washington & Lee University in 1949. He earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Southern Seminary in Louisville in 1953, and, after serving as pastor of Glasgow (VA) Baptist Church, he returned to Louisville where he completed studies for his Doctorate of Theology degree.
In 1958, following a pastorate at Hanover, IN, he joined the chaplaincy staff at Duke University. In 1961 he moved to Raleigh as executive secretary of the Baptist State Convention's student activities, working with college chaplains and students throughout North Carolina. His work with students took him in 1968 to the University of Richmond, where he served as chaplain and professor in the Department of Religion.
Dr. Smith returned to the parish ministry in 1970 as senior minister at Pilgrim UCC in Durham. While there he continued his work with students, serving on the campus ministry boards of both Duke and North Carolina Central University. He accepted a call to Congregational UCC in Greensboro at the beginning of 1981 and served there until his retirement at the end of 1988.
Churches he served as interim pastor include Binkley Baptist in Chapel Hill, St. John's UCC in Burlington, Monticello UCC in Browns Summit, Parkway UCC in Winston-Salem, First Reformed UCC in Burlington, Hebron UCC in Winston-Salem, Mt. Hope UCC in Greensboro, Amelia Christian Church in Clayton, First E&R Church UCC in Asheboro, Holy Covenant UCC in Charlotte, and Peoples Church UCC in Dover, Del.
Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Winnie Fitzgerald Smith; son Gregory Fitzgerald Smith of New Bern; daughter Winnie Smith Leiendecker and husband Thomas M. of Gaithersburg, MD; grandchildren Katie, Emily and Sam Leiendecker, Lindsay Smith Sims and husband Gregory, and Winnie Renee Smith; sister Patricia Smith Talton of New Bern; brother-in-law Edmond B. Fitzgerald and wife Emily of Gretna, VA; sister-in-law Frances Sue Fitzgerald of Winston-Salem; and numerous nieces and nephews and their families. He was predeceased by his sister-in-law Trudy Fitzgerald Willmann.
Memorials may be made to the Residents Assistance Fund at Friends Homes Guilford, 925 New Garden Road, Greensboro, NC 27410, the Capital Campaign at Congregational United Church of Christ, 400 W. Radiance Drive, Greensboro, NC 27403, or the organization or charity of one's choice.
On line condolences may be made at www.haneslineberryfuneralhomes/com