As a first-grader, Edwin B. Smith was a student at a predominantly Black school in Holly Springs. But in the second grade, he transferred to Sallie Cochran Elementary, a school with mostly white students. Although it was still newly desegregated, Smith said he did not face many challenges and was favored by teachers.
In sixth grade, he attended Christian Aided Development through Extraordinary Training, or CADET school. Smith said his parents and CADET taught him to do good things and treat people right while learning about Jesus Christ.
Today, Smith is pastor of New Freedom Family Ministries Church of God in Christ in Oxford at 206 Highway 30 East, and he works as a communications specialist for the University of Mississippi. His duties include interviewing people, handling multiple projects and conducting research.
Smith, a UM alumnus, attended Clark Atlanta University as a freshman, but later returned to Mississippi to attend UM. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and Master of Arts in Journalism.
“I had a passion for writing,” Smith said. “I grew up writing all types of things – poetry, short stories, and I worked for the high school newspaper. I love writing. I knew I wanted to write and was determined to get a degree in journalism.”
Smith is the oldest of three children born to Eddie Lee Smith, Jr., the first black mayor of Holly Springs, and Luberta Smith, a junior high school teacher. He is the husband of Fannie Smith and the father of two children.
Smith said he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior at the age of 12.
“I didn’t fully understand at 12 what discipleship was or how to have a prayer life, but I knew Jesus was real,” Smith said.
He attended Camp Lake Stephens in Lafayette County, and by the time his eight-week discipleship was up, he said he fully surrendered his life to Christ.
Smith chose to attend Clark Atlanta University because it had one of the best journalism programs in the country at the time, he said. During his time there, he said he led many people to Christ in his dorm. He spent more time alone with God and the Bible than he did partying.
“I could have gotten buck wild, but I had no desire to do those things,” Smith said.
After returning to Mississippi, Smith said he knew God was in charge of his life. At UM, the journalism program was small and everyone knew each other with no more than 15 or 20 students in each class. Today, Smith has visited journalism classes with more than 100 students.
“The journalism program has come a long way,” he said. “The program is much stronger compared to when I was there.”
The only degrees available at the time were print journalism and broadcasting. Although there weren’t many options, Smith knew journalism was his calling. His favorite subjects were feature writing, news reporting, photography, and editing.
He was a member of the gospel choir and editor for a magazine called “Rejoice” at UM. He met his wife, Fannie Lee, who was also a member of the gospel choir.
“Pastor can sing,” Fannie Smith said. “I can pray and talk.”
The couple has been married for 41 years.
Smith was a director of public information for two years at Rust College, and taught classes. His time there led to a job for eight years at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma as the director of campus publications. He also taught print journalism, advertising, and feature writing, his favorite subjects in college.
During the summer, he worked as a copy editor at Tulsa World, a daily newspaper.
“Moving to Tulsa was difficult, leaving everybody I knew and was familiar with,” said Fannie Smith. “But it was the fact I did trust Him. He said God told him to do it.
“The most challenges I had to face was with him putting in long hours and always having to meet deadlines. Pastor is a strong man and will always listen to what God has to say.”
Tulsa prepared the Smiths for their Oxford relocation and for the church Smith has been part of for 16 years.
Journalism is a challenging field and networking is even harder, but Smith believes journalism majors should get all the experience they can before graduating.
“Ole Miss has real connections,” he said “People from the professional world come in, and it gives students a chance to meet professional speakers. Be flexible. Things change often. Most importantly, nothing compares to having a relationship with Christ. Be sure that you know Christ, and you’re doing the will of God.”