Tony Smitherman — 2009 Citizen of the Year

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 27, 2009

The proper way to address the minister at West End Baptist Church in Clanton is by his title and name, the Rev. Tony Smitherman. But just about everyone knows The Clanton Advertiser’s 2009 Citizen of the Year as just “Tony.”

A Clanton native and lifelong resident of Chilton County, Tony was selected for the honor by the Citizen of the Year Committee. The committee consists of others who have been named Citizen of the Year in past years.

Prior recipients are Kenneth Moates, Bobby Martin, Curtis Smith, Jimmy Harrison Jr., Mickey Bates and Gay West.

“The purpose of The Advertiser’s Citizen of the Year program is to recognize outstanding citizens for their efforts to improve the quality of life in Chilton County. Tony Smitherman certainly fits the criteria,” Clanton Advertiser Managing Editor Brent Maze said.

Tony is the son of Sylvia Smitherman and the late Fred Smitherman. He is the oldest of six children that include Terry Smitherman, Ted Smitherman, Tammy Veazey, Tracy Patillo and the late Tim Smitherman.

Prior to going into the ministry full-time, Tony worked with his father in their retail appliance business in Clanton.

He began his ministry at Providence Baptist Church No. 2 in 1980 where he served as pastor until moving to Bethsalem Baptist Church as minister in 1986. He remained at Bethsalem Baptist until 1995 when he became the minister at West End Baptist Church.

In the years he has led the congregation at West End Baptist, the church has continued to grow into one of the largest churches in the county. However, Tony is quick to point out the growth of the church is God’s work and not due to his (Tony’s) leadership.

Members of the church agree Tony is a gifted speaker and has unique communication skills. His sermons are well organized and include personal anecdotes that leave no doubt that he has an active sense of humor.

A few years back he had an old-fashioned telephone booth placed near the podium in the church to use as part of his morning sermon. Those who helped him place the booth in the church wired the telephone, making it active without Tony’s knowledge. Now, years later, Tony admits he was more than shocked when the telephone in the old booth began to ring when he made reference to it in front of the congregation the following Sunday morning.

On another occasion, he had a rickety old ladder placed down in front inside the church. He told the congregation he would climb up the old ladder each Sunday for four weeks and mark on a scale the progress being made toward reaching the church’s contribution goal. When the ladder began to shake when he climbed up a step or two to demonstrate how he would mark the progress, many members of the church believed he would come crashing down if he had to climb back up that ladder. The church went over its contribution goal the first Sunday of the campaign.

He takes his calling to preach seriously both at home and abroad. As part of the church’s ministry, Tony and others from West End Baptist have made five trips to India where they worked with local Christians there to promote the Gospel in that part of the world.

He and his wife, Cindy, are the parents of a daughter, Leslie, and a son, Kelly, and have four grandchildren, John, Emma, Rae and Riley.