By Jamal Denman
On Saturday, January 19, Wayman AME Church in North Minneapolis played host to a glorious event that celebrated the 105th birthday of Reverend Noah Spencer Smith. The church was filled with many people of all ages who Smith has touched over the years.
After Reverend Smith was escorted into the building, a welcoming speech was delivered by Reverend Marchelle Hallman, which was followed by a prayer by Reverend William Smith and a reading of scripture by Reverend Joseph Baring, Jr.
Reverend Smith was then seated alongside his wife, Dr. Hallie Hendrieth-Smith, and literally crowned as the audience gave him a standing ovation. A musical tribute was paid to Reverend Smith by a talented young lady by the name of Jada Stumon, who sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which was described as one of his favorite songs.
The Wayman AME Steppers for Christ put on a spirited stepping performance in tribute to Reverend Smith, who looked genuinely touched by the tributes, even standing up and applauding after the performances. Friends and family shared wonderful stories about their experiences interacting with him. They also talked about his ability to easily win over others and how his charming personality had a positive impact on nearly everyone he came in contact with, even during the times when racial hatred and bigotry against African Americans was a common occurrence.
After additional tributes, a spoken-word performance by Dr. Betty Webb, and the audience officially wishing Dr. Smith a happy birthday, there was a benediction and blessing of the food by Reverend Janet Johnson and a delicious meal was served. Reverend Noah Smith, who prefers to go by his middle name Spencer, is the liveliest 105-year-old you are ever likely to meet.
Born on January 18, 1908, he has lived to see a lot; he was born before and outlived the likes of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. There have also been 19 different presidents in the White House during his lifetime.
Reverend Smith considers himself a late bloomer; he graduated from high school in Marion, Indiana in 1927, yet did not earn his first college degree until 1982, earning an AA degree from Minneapolis Community and Technical College. He then earned his BA degree from Macalester College in St. Paul where he majored in religion. He subsequently acquired a Master of Divinity from United Theological Seminary in Minneapolis in 1989.
During a majority of the 1920s and 1930s, Smith spent years on the road touring as a jazz musician. He became an active member of St. Peter’s AME Church in Minneapolis in the 1940s, where he started off playing in the church band, reading scripture, and teaching Sunday school.
Smith entered the ministry at AME in 1956 and became ordained in 1960. He moved along other ministries over the next few decades, including St. Mark AME Church in Duluth and St. James AME Church in Minneapolis where he retired and was superannuated in 1998.
Reverend Smith is currently on the ministerial staff at Wayman AME Church under Reverend Dr. Alphonse Reff and is the senior pastor and the presiding elder of the St. Paul/Minneapolis AME district.
Reverend Noah Smith and Dr. Hallie Hendrieth-Smith celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary on July 5, 2012. He loves music, singing and teaching drums to this day. He also continues to deliver sermons.
Reverend Smith still cooks breakfast for his wife every morning, an activity he truly enjoys and says keeps him young.
Jamal Denman welcomes reader responses to [email protected]