James Smith

James Irving Smith, Jr.


James Irving Smith, Jr., died peacefully in his home on June 4, 2021. Born in 1929, to Mable Higgins Smith and James Irving Smith, Sr., Smith graduated from Sumner High School and attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, where he was on the gymnastics team and pledged the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. An artist, Smith co-founded the Advo Sign Company (with fellow artist Walter Friday) in the 1950s-1960s. In 1968, Smith and his son, Seitu James Smith, III, both painted portraits of Black leaders on the St. Louis Wall of Respect. Smith was a caring and dedicated teacher in the St. Louis Public Schools for 35 years; he taught at Benton Elementary School before moving on to teach art at Beaumont High School for most of his career. He was an avid tennis player, who could often be seen on the tennis courts at Fairgrounds Park. In 1949, Smith married Joyce Harris Smith, who remained his sweetheart throughout their lives. Together, they raised six children. He was a true “family man”, whom his wife described as “good—a good man, a good person.” Smith’s wife, Joyce Harris Smith and his son, Seitu James Irving Smith, III, preceded him in death. He is survived by five of their six children, Dale Edwyna Smith, Karen Smith Pitts, Guy Smith, Jabari Asim, and Boyce Smith; twelve grandchildren, and four great grandchildren. A quiet man of deep humility and strength, he is deeply missed. 

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