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In years past, NeSmith spent a lot of time in his “Dawg House.” The space was actually an office and decked out with the UGA memorabilia he had collected through the years. “I’ve been a Georgia fan and started following them in the late ‘50s. My wife is a ‘senior cheerleader’ for Georgia!” Ne Smith proclaimed in a profile published in The Advance on March 28, 2012. NeSmith, the youngest of five children, was born in Cochran on January 14, 1929. He attended Middle Georgia College, where he met his future wife, June Walters, and Mercer University before joining the army in 1950. He was honorably discharged in 1953 as first lieutenant, having served during the Korean Conflict.
“My father was a businessman and a politician,” he said in the profile. “He was the Clerk of Courts in Cochran. Both of my brothers were Ford dealers, and I listened to them and bought the Ford dealership in Forsyth.” That purchase earned him the distinction of being the youngest dealer in the country. “That was trouble,” he quipped. “I almost starved to death!”
In August 1958, the NeSmiths came to Lyons where he went to work in the oil distribution business with Pure Oil and later established Pure Water and Gas Company. He retired as an oil wholesaler of NeSmith-Traffic Oil. Over time, he witnessed a lot of change in the gasoline industry. “I’ve seen the gasoline business go from a onehorse farm to being totally mechanized,” he said.
He reflected on the old days at the gas pump. “Used to be, when you pulled up to a gas station, you got full service. I mean, you got your gas pumped, and your oil, water and air checked. Now, sadly that’s a thing of the past. And way back when I started, gas was less than 50 cents a gallon and heating oil was less than a dime a gallon.”
NeSmith had never been to Toombs County before coming here in 1958, but he said he never regretted the move. “I’ve made some good friends over the years both in Toombs County and Lyons,” he said. “I think Toombs County is one of the most progressive counties in Georgia because of good leadership. I am proud to call it home.”
NeSmith was vice chairman of the Toombs County Hospital Authority during the time Meadows Regional Medical Center was built. In 1998, as he was named Lyons Citizen of the Year, NeSmith’s long record of service to the community was recalled. He was president of the Lyons Jaycees, the Lyons Lions Club, and the Lyons Chamber of Commerce. He was also a member of the Lyons Housing Authority, a past director of Darby Bank and Trust, and a trustee of both Middle Georgia College and Brewton-Parker College. He also served on the Toombs Development Authority. As a member of First Baptist Church of Lyons, he served the church as a deacon, Sunday school superintendent, and finance committee chairman.
In addition to his wife of 70 years and son, Mayor NeSmith, NeSmith is survived a daughter, Ginny-Anne NeSmith Lipscomb; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. His funeral was held on his birthday, January 14.