VIDEO: Dr. Joe Lee Smith Is Brevard Sports Development Pioneer, Florida A&M Hall of Famer
By Maria Sonnenberg // February 16, 2017
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME
ABOVE VIDEO: The lessons taught by sports provide a philosophy of life for Dr. Joe Lee Smith, educator, advocate and mentor.
DR. JOE LEE SMITH – 2015 INDUCTEE
• Florida A&M Hall of Fame
• NAACP Living Legend Award
• Teacher, Coach, Mentor To Many
The lessons taught by sports provide a philosophy of life for Dr. Joe Lee Smith, educator, advocate and mentor.
The parents of this Cocoa native always instilled in him and his three siblings the importance of a good education and participation in sports.
“My mom only went through the third grade and worked as a café cook and my dad had a fourth grade education and was a fruit picker, but they were both adamant that all of us get a good education and get involved in sports,” said Smith.
Smith chose baseball as his game, which helped him achieve his educational goals of a bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M University, where he made the team as a freshman, a rare feat.
He captained the baseball team in junior and senior years.
Without the sports scholarship he earned, there was no way Smith could have gone to college.
“At one time, all four of us were in college on athletic scholarships,” said Smith.
With a master’s degree in education, also from Florida A&M, and a doctorate in education from the University of Florida, Smith went on to do his parents proud.
His alma mater honored his efforts by naming him to the university’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
As classroom teacher, coach, director of athletics, assistant principal, dean and provost during a long and distinguished career in Brevard, Broward and Dade Counties, Smith always strived to be a role model for young people.
In the sports arena, one of his first jobs was as head football, basketball and baseball coach, and also as athletic director, for Gibson High School, a black school in Titusville.
“We had little equipment and few players, so we really had to work hard to develop the program,” said Smith.
“At times, we didn’t even have enough helmets and shoulder pads for all the players, but the community got behind us and helped us. We started with very little, but we were still able to mold young men.”
Dean and provost of Eastern Florida State College’s four Brevard campuses until his retirement in 2000, Smith also served as executive director of the Moore Multicultural Center. Coaxed out of retirement, he is currently the executive advisor to the president and college ambassador at Eastern Florida State College.
In honor of his commitment to higher education, the college’s board of trustees dedicated the Dr. Joe Lee Smith Teacher Center at the college’s Melbourne campus.
Among the roomful of awards he has earned through the years, is the Humanitarian Award presented by Onyx magazine in 2005.
United Third Bridge honored Smith with the Taino Award for his efforts to advance the cause of the Hispanic community in Brevard County.
Junior Achievement of the Space Coast inducted him into its Business Hall of Fame in 2006. Smith is also the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement/Living Legend Award of the South Brevard branch of NAACP.
For 32 years, Smith has served Rockledge as a city council member. The list of organizations, which he has supported with his time and talent is long and includes Circles of Care, the Salvation Army, Space Coast Rolling Readers, United Way of Brevard and the Boys and Girls Club.
The former Magnolia Street Park in Cocoa was renamed as the Joe Lee Smith Recreation Center in recognition of his work with the community’s young and old.
Among his four daughters, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, Smith is keeping a close eye on four-year-old great-grandson Jaedon, who is already showing proficiency in T-ball League.
“I think he is the one who’s going to take the baseball baton from me,” said Smith.
THE 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on Friday, May 12.
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT the 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME OR TO MAKE A NOMINATION, call 321-615-8111 or e-mail MaverickMultimedia@gmail.com