The Patrick Henry Award evening was full of rib jabs, jollies and a few affectionate jeers.
Hammer Smith will join six other recipients of the Patrick Henry Award presented by the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, Eminence Rotary Club and the Henry County Historical Society.
Wendell Berry, John Berry Jr., John W. Smith Jr., Claude A. Berry Jr., Martha Tarry Simpson have received the award. Carl L. Rucker presented Smith with the award after a bit of rib jabbing by regional storyteller, former journalist and radio personality Byron Crawford.
“I knew that Hammer was important to the community and he had done many things, but I didn’t know exactly what they were,” Crawford said. “It was hard to find his actual work record so I started naturally at the Henry County Sheriff’s Office.”
Crawford said over his career span he had done more than 50 stories on Henry County and every time he would conduct his interviews someone would suggest that he talk to Hammer Smith. Crawford said he couldn’t put Smith in every article.
“I recently wrote a forward in a book by Bill Matthews with colored postcards from Shelby, Spencer and Henry Counties,” Crawford said. “I wasn’t too energetic about it and I asked Bill what do I need to write. He said we need to thank a few people and one man we definitely need to thank is the fellow named Hammer Smith he said, ‘You ever heard of him?’ And I thought, here we go again.”
Crawford accounted Smith’s career in Henry County starting in 1961 as a social studies teacher at the Henry County High School, being promoted to director of pupil and personnel, working as an independent remodeling contractor for the Farmers Home Administration, serving as treasurer and elder of the New Castle Christian Church, director of the Henry County Civil Defense, Fire Chief of New Castle Fire Department, and president of the Henry County Jaycees. Smith was elected to the New Castle Board of Trustees and New Castle mayor.
“He has been a museum curator, genealogist, editor of the historical quarterly, volunteer emergency medical technician and many more things, as they are too numerous to mention,” Crawford said. “I concluded after assembling all of this information about his record of work, ladies and gentlemen, this man can’t hold a job.”
State Representative Rick Rand, Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent and last year’s recipient Carl L. Rucker also honored Smith with speeches Saturday night. Malissa Beatty presented Smith with a framed sketch of Smith from a picture in the Henry County Local. Smith responded with a healthy amount of humbleness and humor.
Smith talked of coming from his family’s farm in the holler near Lexington in Nicholas County on Taylor’s ‘Crick’ and how he has approached life with humor. He joked of teaching Crawford in his class and teaching him everything that Crawford knows.
“I just want to make a few disjointed comments. I hope you didn’t come here tonight expecting some great enlightening, oratorical presentation because that’s not what you are going to get,” Smith said. “You are supposed to laugh when I pause. I do want to thank everyone for coming.”