My relationship with Tony

Published 6:00 am Sunday, March 1, 2009

The first time I met Tony Smitherman, The Clanton Advertiser’s Citizen of the Year for 2009, he worked with his father, Fred, at their appliance store in North Clanton. Later I had an opportunity to work with Tony during campaigns when county residents voted down the idea of having legal sales of alcoholic beverages countywide.

I remember telling my wife, Peggy, that Tony was a quality young man. No way at the time I would have believed years later Tony would become my pastor.

I first heard Tony speak from the pulpit when Clanton Optometrist Jim Driggars and I attended a service at Providence No. 2 Baptist Church to take a photograph of young church members who collected eye glasses to be sent to people who in foreign countries and could not purchase needed glasses.

We took our pictures before the service began and Jim suggested we stay and hear Tony speak. I’m glad we did. Both of us came away from the church inspired.

Tony became the pastor of Bethsalem Baptist Church and we continued our newspaper writer-minister relationship and at the same time became better friends.

When Tony became minister at West End Baptist Church here, he told me our friendship would grow more in a pastor-church member relationship. It certainly has.

He served as a minister at the weddings of both my children and has always been there for our families. His dedication to God and to his role as the leader of West End Baptist Church’s congregation has earned him my respect and the respect of many, many others.

The Clanton Advertiser’s Citizen of the Year is selected every year by a committee of former citizens of the year. It is my belief that those who have received the honor in the past are best qualified to name the recipient each year. Neither I nor no other members of The Clanton Advertiser’s staff have any input into the selection of the recipient.

But we certainly concur with this year’s selection and congratulate Tony for earning the recognition through his life’s work.

Others who have been named Citizen of the Year have been Kenneth Moates, Bobby Martin, Curtis Smith, Jimmy Harrison Jr., Mickey Bates and Gay West. Tony is a good addition to this list.