Dr. Jeffrey Maurice Smith Sr.

August 26, 1952June 3, 2021

OBITUARY Jeffrey Maurice Smith, Sr., of Oxon Hill, Maryland, was born August 26, 1952, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Willie Bee (Yarbrough) and James Smith, Sr. He was the fourth of their six sons. Like his brothers, he was raised in a family where everyone cared for each other, worked hard, and loved the Lord. Jeff joined Community Baptist Church at an early age, participated in its activities, and continued to support it throughout his life. Under the pastorate of his uncle, Dr. Richard Mattox, Jeff received clear and consistent Christian education and became a man who always sought to study, understand, and follow God’s calling. Gifted with physical talent and a love for football, Jeff graduated from Glenville High School, where he received an athletic as well as an academic scholarship to Kent State University. At Kent, he played offensive line on the 1972 MAC Championship team, and he forged lifelong bonds with another band of brothers. Jeff graduated in 1974 with a Social Studies degree. He taught and coached in nearby Ashtabula, then Lorain, where he married and became the father of three sons. After serving as the first Black head football coach in the city’s history for several years, he accepted the call to become an offensive line coach at Kent State University. Although Jeff loved coaching at his alma mater, he loved his family more. After his youngest son developed autism, Jeff chose to sacrifice his job and career to implement an intensive cognitive therapy program that required up to six hours of physical activity daily, much of which took place in Kent State’s athletic facilities. During that season and after, Jeff pursued God by engaging in formal biblical studies. He also began graduate programs at Kent State University, where he earned a master’s degree, then a doctorate in School Counseling. When Creighton University called, Dr. Jeffrey Smith, Sr. was prepared and moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where he embraced opportunities to teach, research, and serve throughout the community for the next twenty-two years. On Thursday, June 3, 2021, God called His beloved servant Jeff home. Jeffrey Smith, Sr. leaves to mourn his passing and celebrate his life a beloved wife, Dr. Lillie Gayle Smith of Oxon Hill, three sons: Jeffrey Jr. (Kate) of Malden, MA; James Michael Charles (aka Mike or JC) Washington, D. C., and Jonathan of Oxon Hill; two adored grandchildren: Desmond Jonathan and Simone Marilyn Smith of Malden. He leaves five brothers: James (Jackie) of Kansas City, MO; Edward (Patricia) of Las Vegas, NV; Melvin of Cleveland, OH; Greg (Kay) of Dallas, TX; and Michael (Loretta) of Tallahassee, FL. He is survived by two aunts: Mary Lee Moore of Pattison, MS and Dora Younger of Port Gibson, MS, and three uncles: Sidney Yarbrough and George Yarbrough (Cecilia) of Cleveland, OH, and Roosevelt Yarbrough of Pattison, MS. He is also survived by a host of adoring nieces and nephews, along with a large but close network of cousins. He will be missed by his many friends, colleagues, students, and teammates from the golden era of Kent State football.



  • Visitation/Walk Through

    Monday, June 14, 2021

  • Funeral Service

    Tuesday, June 15, 2021


  • Burial Cleveland Memorial Gardens


Dr. Jeffrey Maurice Smith Sr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

Robert Walker

July 2, 2021

I am so sorry to learn of Coach Smith’s passing. I cannot, I’m sure, conjure the proper words to describe the impact Coach had on the ultimate trajectory of my life. Because he believed in me, I learned to believe in myself. He taught me I belonged in the world of the kind, the educated, the giving and the strong. So I formulated a vision of a life where I’d go to college - the first in my family line to do so. And I’d play football at a Division 1 school. I graduated from an Ivy League university where I played football for four years. I have a great career, a wonderful family and tremendous friends. None of this would have occurred had I not spent time with Coach Jeff Smith in 1982-3 at Lorain Southview.

Linda Hadden-Robinson

June 18, 2021

Condolences to the Smith family. I knew the family in Kent. Jeff was always smiling. He is a kind man who was committed to his family and community. The community is at a lost due to Jeff's death.

James Fox

June 16, 2021

The memory and soul of this great man lives on! Years ago we coached football together at Kent State. Jeff was my favorite colleague. He was a gentle giant with a heart of gold. My heart aches at his passing, but I know he is in a better place. My condolences to his family.

Pamela Galles

June 15, 2021

My heart is heavy at this time and know the family has to be experiencing a great sense of loss. Sending prayers for strength and hope that His lovely wife and family find comfort knowing heaven gained an Angel to watch over them. Dr. Smith, as I referred to as ‘JS’ was the most supportive, encouraging force I ever had as a student and human being. He will greatly missed 🙏🏼❤️

Virginia Lemmons

June 14, 2021

Dr. Smith,

I am so sorry to hear about the death of Dr. Jeffrey. He was such a profound gentlemen; so polite at all times. Despite our broken hearts and questioning minds, I know God is still working miracles to provide strength during this dark hour of grief. I am praying that He will continue to provide strength and courage to begin the journey for the days ahead. Please remember to reach out to me if I can assist in any way.

Russ Perry

June 14, 2021

I had the honor and pleasure to meet and converse with Jeff often while I worked at Creighton University. Jeff radiated the Holy Spirit when I talked with him. He had a strong spiritual aura that one could feel immediately. We lost a friend who was a clear cut example of how to follow in the way of our Lord Jesus the Christ. Prayers and blessings for Jeff and his family. Those of us who had the privilege to know him can be sure Jeff is praying for us.

Paul Stewart

June 13, 2021

He caught ME
Oderrie Underwood and Scott Henderson breaking curfew during two a day.He cussed the hell out us.Then said get your asses to bed.Last we heard of it again behaved as thought it never happened.His youngest son was Autistic and glued to HIS side all the when he was not working...hope to see him on the other side and thank him for sparing us 1000 yards of Flash backs. Gone perhaps forgotten...NEVER...

Marcus May

June 13, 2021

My condolences to the family of Jeff Smith. We met and friended at Kent State University in 1970. He was a brother that posesed and always exhibited outstanding character and integrity, albeit an awesome and gifted athlete on the football field. Although we fell out of contact down thu the years his passing is most unfortunate to learn of. R.I.P "Big Jeff."

Razan Jouaneh

June 13, 2021

May Professor Jeffrey's soul rest in peace and may God bring solace to his family and loved ones.

I was blessed to have known him and also blessed by his unwavering support, encouragement, and vast knowledge. I would not be where I am today without him. I hope and pray that I will be able to continue and pass on a small part of what I learned from him in my little corner of the world in Jordan.

Bob Walko

June 12, 2021

Coach Smith was a true example of how to be a gentleman in a violent game. He cared deeply for every athlete that came in contact with him. I loved how he would call you by your full name. It was something unique and made you feel special. His biggest lesson of how not to give up was when he left coaching to work with his son. THAT was the greatest example of a father’s love that I ever saw. Coach Smith made an impact on my life. I am fortunate that he shared time in my college career.