Banker, governor. Smith was born in North Carolina on January 22, 1861, the son of Joseph Smith. After attending local schools, he graduated from Wake Forest College. On January 3, 1884, he married Fanny L. Byrd. They had nine children.
In order to pay off the debts for his college education, he moved to Timmonsville in Florence County, where he taught school. He soon moved into business and was president of a number of enterprises, including the Citizens Bank of Timmonsville, the Timmonsville Oil Company, Charles A. Smith General Merchandise, and the Smith Williams Company of Lake City. In addition, he was an organizer and president of the Bank of Lynchburg.
In 1903 he was elected mayor of Timmonsville. Five years later he was elected to the South Carolina House from Florence County, and following that, in 1910 he was elected lieutenant governor. In 1914 there was a crowded Democratic primary of eleven candidates for governor. Smith ran a poor seventh. Five days before Governor Coleman L. Blease’s second term expired, he resigned as governor so as not to have to participate in the inauguration of his bitter political enemy Richard I. Manning. Thus, on January 14, 1915, Smith was sworn in as governor.
Among the reasons Blease gave for resigning was “to give the Baptists of South Carolina an opportunity to have it said that one of their best and greatest men . . . had been governor.” Smith was one of the state’s most prominent Baptist laymen, having served as president of the Baptist State Convention, a vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and president of the board of trustees of Furman. Smith died on March 3, 1916.
Burts, Richard Milton, Richard I. Manning and the Progressive Movement in South Carolina. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1974.
Snowden, Yates. History of South Carolina, 5 vols. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1920.