Legendary Lexington figure James “Smitty” Smith dies


LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The City of Lexington has lost a dear friend.  James “Smitty” Smith died Tuesday at the age of 89.  He would have turned 90 on May 2.

He grew up in the small Clark County community of Indian Fields during segregation.

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In Lexington, he worked 28-years in the Office of Fayette County Sheriff, primarily in the Court Services Division.

But for generations of people, he will be remembered as the man who greeted them with his infectious smile at Columbia Steak House on North Limestone.  He worked there on-and-off for decades.

Even if you only met him once, you would never forget him because he was such a kind, gracious soul.

In a May 2017 article in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Smitty shared his life philosophy with writer Cheryl Truman:  “God will take care of you. Do your best, treat people the way you wish to be treated, and the master will take care of you.”

Here is the social media post from Columbia Steak House:

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of James Smith, better know as “Smitty “.

Smitty was a legendary figure of the downtown Lexington dining scene for decades. His kind nature and boundless hospitality welcomed guests at the North Limestone Columbia’s for many years. His trademark “uniform “…his tuxedo…was a touch of panache that he wore as the most popular and beloved of Lexington residents. Smitty delighted In managing the crowds that waited in line for a Nighthawk Special, whether it was a date night, family celebration, or just a quick meal.

Today, we take a moment to reflect on our memories of a truly unique and, now, much missed member of our community and Columbia’s family.

Here, another post from the Office of Fayette County Sheriff:

With fondness, we celebrate the life of our dear friend, and fellow team member, James L. “Smitty” Smith.

Smitty’s kind spirit and presence as a humble public servant will be deeply missed in the community of Lexington and particularly here at the Office of Sheriff.  In our office today, we realized everyone has a Smitty story.

*Note:  The photo of James “Smitty” Smith that accompanies this story is courtesy of the Office of Fayette County Sheriff.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.