By Fanning Yater Tant
Hundreds of grieving friends were there, including more than forty faithful preachers of the gospel, as Granville Tyler, A. C. Moore and James Shear sought to bring words of hope and reassurance. It was Monday, September 2. The scene was Elmwood Chapel in Birmingham, Alabama, and the still and silent form which had for sixty-one years housed the spirit of Farris J. Smith lay in quiet repose. For nearly half of those years (twenty-seven) Brother Smith had preached for the Berney Points and Cahaba Heights congregations in this city. Many, many times he had stood in this very chapel to bring these same words of comfort to others who were bereaved. But this time his lips were silent.
Born in Lawrence County, Alabama, Farris J. Smith had spent all of his preaching years in this state. His term of service in Birmingham had spanned more years than any gospel preacher who has ever labored here, second only to the late and beloved John T. Lewis. Coming to the Berney Points congregation in 1947, he remained there for fourteen years in his first period of work. When this congregation sent members and financial help to start a new congregation in Cahaba Heights, Brother Smith moved to the new congregation, and remained with them for some five or six years. He returned to Berney Points in August, 1966, and remained there until his death.
Survived by his wife, Edith, and by three sons, Gene, Charles, and Gerald, he has truly joined that select company of saints who “being dead, yet speak.” Firm and unshaken in his stand for the truth, yet reasonable and considerate in his treatment of those who differed from him, his influence will be felt in this city for many years to come. Knowing for some six months that death (from throat cancer) was only a matter of a brief time, his calm acceptance of this fact and his strong faith in a loving Father not only sustained him, but was a source of inspiration to all who had contact with him during these weeks. By the grace of God he was able to preach his final sermon only two weeks before the final hour. His topic: “If I had Only One Sermon To Preach.” It was a lesson that will never be forgotten by those who heard it, for all who were present seemed to sense that this was his valedictory. It was a fitting climax to a life that had been lived by the truths and principles set forth in that brief discourse.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:48, p. 2
October 10, 1974