Smith, Ernest Paul

  • Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ernest Paul Smith, Cdr, USN, Ret., and a resident of Summerville, died peacefully on November 15, 2012, in the Veterans' Victory House near Walterboro. He is survived by his wife, Anne C. Smith, the former Elizabeth Anne Crooks, whom he married in San Francisco in January 1945 during a breather from World War II while his ship was stateside for repairs. They reared three sons, Rutherford (Rudd) Paul Crooks Smith, Gregory (Greg) Fitzgerald Crooks Smith, and Drayton Noland Smith. Drayton, an artist and art teacher, died in 2010. Rudd, an attorney, lives in Summerville with his wife Pat, the former Patricia Bennett Duncan, and Greg, a retired teacher and football coach, lives in Edisto Beach and Summerville with his wife Karyn, the former Karyn Weidman.
Commander Smith was born in December 1918 in Newberry, South Carolina, the oldest of three children. His brother, William (Bill) C. Smith, who was also a navy officer, predeceased him; his sister, Ida S. Mills, still lives in Newberry. Paul was reared and educated in Newberry, and he played and managed semi-pro baseball on a Newberry team. He received an appointment to the U. S. Naval Academy in 1938. While there he played football and baseball, receiving stars on his letters for beating Army. Also while there he met Anne at a reception hosted by her parents for South Carolina midshipmen. Her father, William Edgar Crooks, a navy surgeon, was at the time stationed at the Naval Academy.
Upon graduation with a B.S. in engineering in December 1941, he served on the commissioning and shakedown crew of the cruiser USS Milwaukee. In January 1943 he reported to the battleship USS Iowa, which was commissioned the next month. After transporting President Roosevelt to Teheran that spring for his conference with Churchill and Stalin, the Iowa moved to the Pacific theater of operation, where it remained for the duration of the war. He was involved in battles and campaigns large and small, including the liberation of the Philippines. He was on the Iowa when the ship was moored in Tokyo Bay alongside the battleship USS Missouri for the September 1945 signing of the armistice with Japan. After seven years on the Iowa, he was transferred to the USS Missouri, and that ship made a trip around Cape Horn and a transit of the Panama Canal while he was the ship's navigator.
He also served in the Korean War, and later in the 1950's he had command of the destroyer USS Johnston, which earned an "E" for excellence while operating in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas. The ship's home port was in Charleston, which brought him and his family to Summerville in 1960. His last duty station before his 1964 retirement was in the Sixth Naval District Headquarters in Charleston.
Of his almost 25 year military career, 13 years were spent at sea on six ships. His shore assignments included two tours of duty in the Pentagon.
He won the Bronze Star for valor and 15 other medals with 13 star attachments, a "V" for valor, and 2 Presidential Unit Citations.
On his retirement from the Navy, he became a registered financial adviser. After leaving that field, he taught at the high school level and became, as "The Commander," the de facto headmaster of what was then known as The Summerville Academy. He took as much satisfaction from being a teacher as he did from being a parent and grandparent, affectionately referring to his students. He took great pride in his students' accomplishments, and he was honored by their dedicating the school's 1979 yearbook to him. He taught one more year after that, then retired from teaching when the school reorganized and changed its name to Pinewood Summerville Preparatory School.
He was a voracious reader with special interest in oceanography, other sciences, history, biographies of military and political leaders, and government. He never missed an opportunity to vote, and he and two other men organized the Dorchester County Republican Party. Early party meetings were, he joked in the retelling over the years, held in a telephone booth.
He had a plan for everything, including his funeral, which he wanted short, simple, and free of ceremony except for the military honors which he earned. Some of his ashes will be given to the Atlantic Ocean, and some will be buried in St. Paul's church yard on Thursday, November 29, at 10:00 A.M., with full military honors.
Paul's survivors in addition to Anne and his sons and their wives, include Rudd and Pat's children Mark Duncan and his wife, Helena, Karen Duncan and her husband, Robert, and their children Grady and Reeves, and Rutherford (Ford) Prettyman Smith and his wife, Taeko, and their three young children; and Greg and Karyn's son, Christopher Cox, and his sons, Michael and Gregory Cox.
Arrangements by Parks Funeral Home, 130 West 1st North Street, Summerville, SC 29483.

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