William DuBois ‘Duke’ Smither leaves a legacy of powerful storytelling

George Copeland Jr. | 4/11/2024, 6 p.m.
Red Smith, the prominent sportswriter, once said that “writing is easy. Just sit in front of a typewriter, open up ...
Mr. Smither

Red Smith, the prominent sportswriter, once said that “writing is easy. Just sit in front of a typewriter, open up a vein and bleed it out, drop by drop.”

William DuBois “Duke” Smither never met Mr. Smith, but, no doubt, they shared a similar passion for the written word. Mr. Smither was a prolific writer and storyteller who spun stories most of his life for every medium from newspapers to blogs. He literally worked until he couldn’t anymore.

Mr. Smither passed away at the age of 79 on Thursday, March 7, 2024, marking the end of a life filled with personal and historical achievements.

Born the son of Corinthian Baptist Church Pastor Will Andrew Smither and deaconess Mary Stinson Smither on Sept. 30. 1944, Mr. Smither grew up alongside three siblings in Frankfort, Ky.

Mr. Smither began his school experience in Frankfort, joining the military and the U.S. Navy after graduating high school at age 16. He later continued his education at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Majoring in journalism, Mr. Smither balanced his studies with work as a sports reporter for VCU’s “Postscript” newspaper and wrote sports and features for the Richmond Afro-American Newspaper. He later would return to VCU for postgraduate studies in criminal justice administration.

Mr. Smither also graduated with a B.S. degree in organizational management from St. Paul’s College in 1993. His independent studies in African and African-American history further contributed to his writing career, leading to Backstreet Djeli’s Blog, a history-related and contributing work for Blackpast.org.

Throughout his life, Mr. Smither was devoted to storytelling in all its forms.

He was a frequent part of faith-based community theater productions as an actor, playwright and director. Mr. Smither also was an accomplished author, debuting in 2018 with “Backroads to ‘Bethlehem,’” followed in 2022 by a sequel, “Passage(s) to Saint-Domingue.” His commitment to writing continued up until his final hours, completing his third novel in the series the same day he passed away. The work tentatively is titled “Children of the Swamp.”

Outside his work as a writer, Mr. Smither was a devoted husband of 58 years to his wife Catherine Sharon Smither. He also was a longtime member and past president of the Male Chorus at St. Peter Baptist Church, and a member of Christian Arts/Cultural Ministries, serving as part of its congregation for more than 20 years.

When it came to other work, Mr. Smither served as a senior investigator in corporate security for Dominion Energy until he retired in 2008. He was the first African-American insurance agent in Virginia for Allstate Insurance. On June 9, 2023,

Mr. Smither was inducted into the Frankfort, Ky. Independent Schools Hall of Fame for lifetime achievements.

Mr. Smither was preceded in death by his parents and siblings Barbara Smither Collins, Mary Smither Gladden and Billy Smither. He is survived by his wife; children Kenyatta D. Smither Sr., Douglass D. Smither and Tanya Michelle Smither; his grandchildren and a host of other relatives, cousins and close friends.

Mr. Smither was buried Monday, March 18, 2024 at Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Amelia County. Those looking to honor his life are encouraged to make donations in Mr. Smither’s memory to the American Lung Association, which can be found at www.lung.org.