Andy Amey: Jimmy Smith remembered as unselfish family man

Nov. 17—My prayer list has gotten shorter lately.

It was at 62 until a few months ago, when Richie Adderley passed away. My former wife Jenny, the reason Darcy and JoJo are alive today, died not quite two weeks ago, and shortly after that I learned that George Miller, one of my best friends since we were in first grade, had died in a nursing home.

And now Jimmy Smith.

Jimmy joined the list (which is now at 58) a few years ago. I hadn't had a list when he suffered the worst time of his life, the accident that took the life of his son Travis, but when he had a medical issue of his own and survived that, I tried to give him a little help.

Not only did he make a miraculous recovery, he got back on the sidelines for awhile, serving as a volunteer coach on Maynard Lewis's staff at South during the time that Craig Porter was starting his journey that eventually led to the National Basketball Association. That would make Craig the second NBA player mentored by Jimmy, whose relationship with Greg Oden — the league's No. 1 overall draft pick and, more importantly, a great friend to Travis — is well known.

I wasn't fortunate enough to cover Jimmy's 40-point game against Evansville Bosse as a member of Terre Haute South's Braves, but I covered and/or kept stats for most of his games as a Sycamore when he was an integral part of two of the best teams in ISU history.

The 40-point game as a Brave was something of an outlier, because he was usually more concerned with setting up his teammates. He ranks second all-time at ISU in assists per game, ahead of Larry Bird, and trails only Steve Reed, who had one additional year as Bird's teammate.

That unselfishness continued throughout his life — as a school liaison officer with the Terre Haute Police Department and as executive director of the Terre Haute Boys Club for many years. He made sure that Travis was remembered by the Terre Haute South golf community, making his son an inspiration for South golfers to follow.

Through it all, Jimmy enjoyed the support of his family, all of whom have been thankful this week that he'll be reunited with Travis. My best personal story, in fact, is more about his wife Tami than it is about Jimmy and it illustrates the kind of family he was blessed with.

My daughter Darcy had a seizure years ago and was understandably scared out of her wits. Tami happened to be a nurse on duty in the emergency room at Terre Haute Regional Hospital that day, and she calmed Darcy down as she was preparing to be transferred to Riley Hospital for Children.

I happened to run into Jimmy a few days later and made sure to mention how valuable his wife had been to a successful outcome that day. He wasn't at all surprised.

"That's what she does," he said with a proud smile.


—Too many — While preparing this column, I also learned of the death of former Terre Haute North baseball player Mark Payne. He played on the 1974 team that ended its season at Lafayette's Loeb Stadium, winning the state championship in probably the most one-sided title game I was ever on the right side of.

Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. at 812-231-4277 or 812-231-4276 or at Follow TribStarAndy on the X.