TITLE: The Smartest Man I've Ever Known
By Phyllis Smith Asinyanbi
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"The Smartest Man I've Ever Known"
Robert Smith, Jr. was my Daddy. When I was growing up, he was the only one I knew personally who did not have a middle name. Sometimes I wondered if that bothered him, but I never asked. If it did bother him, I did not want to risk hurting his feelings. He was born on March 19, 1922 in Malvern, Arkansas and passed away in 1990. If he were living, he would be 85 years old. Sometimes my heart still aches for him.
Robert Smith, Jr., or Robert Jr., as his siblings sometimes called him was the most intelligent man I have ever known. I speak of innate intelligence as he did not have a formal education. He did not finish high school, as his mother passed away when he was 16, and he went to the army so he could send money back home to help his four siblings and his father. My Daddy also wanted to escape from the racism in Malvern, Arkansas and once told me that after he had returned from the army to see his father and siblings, he never had the desire to return to Malvern--and he never did.
Although my Daddy did not have a formal education, he was constantly learning, constantly reading, constantly observing, etc. Often people would ask him which college he graduated from. When he replied, "None," they would be astounded. He was a true autodidact. I often wondered, too, how he lost his southern accent. Perhaps, he practiced voice and articulation or studied and mimicked the accents of those around him once he moved to Detroit, Michigan and later to Cleveland, Ohio. I will never know the answer to that question either as I never asked him. At the time, it did not seem important to me. I just knew that he constantly emphasized the importance of speaking correct English to me as well as my siblings. I am very thankful to him for doing that; it has served me well throughout my 47 years of living..
I remember my Daddy as being quietly strong. He didn't have a lot to say, but when he spoke, his voice made me want to listen. I also remember him being a great storyteller, and there were numerous occasions when I sat on his lap and implored him, "Daddy, tell me about when you were young." Sometimes he would repeat a story to me about being, "the best dressed boy in Malvern, Arkansas." Other times he would tell me about people he met in France when he served as a sergeant in World War II. He would throw in some French for good measure. He was creative, intelligent, educated in the truest sense of the word, spontaneous at times, and "the smartest man I have ever known."
He did not accept the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal savior, until he was in his 50s. I remember him telling me before he became very ill and could no longer speak that he prayed for "all of you every day" (his adult children). He passed away at the age of 68--much too young. I often wonder what he would be like at the age of 85, and it saddens me to this very day, that my 7-year-old son will never meet Grandpa Robert. However, I do tell my son about my Daddy, "the smartest man that I've ever known." I have worked for executives, physicians, presidents of universities, etc., and for me, my Daddy remains the most intelligent and wisest of them all.
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