By Vivian C. Wainwright

Charlton County Herald, February 20, 2002

Born on January 20, 1939 into the home of Samuel and Sallie Chatman in Charlton County, Ga., Claudette Chatman Smith was influenced in many ways by both her parents, but especially her father. Taking his family along, Samuel Chatman earned his education degree at Albany State College in the 40s. Amazingly, he completed requirements in three instead of four years and managed to graduate cum laude.

“My dad stressed education and family,” said Claudette. “I had a good upbringing in a Christian family. We never knew not to go to church. I was taught to always treat people the way I would want to be treated.”

The family moved back to Charlton County, then in the 9th grade Claudette went to Jacksonville, Fla and completed her high school education, graduating from Stanton High School in 1957. On October 26, 1958 she married the love of her life, Albert A. Smith. The couple had four children, Anthony, Cheryl, Stan and Jana, all of whom are leading successful lives.

Slash Pine came into existence during the Johnson administration and was designed to help people out of poverty. Claudette began working for the organization in 1967. She and Ruby Garard carried the title of Homemaker’s Aide. “We went into people’s homes and taught them how to cook, sew and care for their children. We did anything that was needed to assist these families from providing commodities (this was before food stamps) and clothing, to making sure they were taken to the Health Department.”

In 1979 Claudette began working with the Department of Family and Children Services, wearing many hats through the years. The last eight years before her retirement in December of 1997, she worked in Foster Care. “It was a very rewarding job to me, working with families and children. I’ve always done that (even in her personal life) and thought, in some small way, I could make a difference.”

Mrs. Smith believes if you can have a happy and healthy family, that’s what really counts. “Everyone should have a share of happiness. I think it’s our God-given right to be happy. I hate to see people sad. We should be very thankful when we can wake up in good health and make sure we don’t take things for granted.”

She believes in praying for wisdom and knowledge. “Prayer is so very important; it will help you in so many ways even with the smallest needs.” She explained. Claudette loves her church and is very active at Greater Faith Missionary Baptist Church. “We have such a close church family, it’s very special.”

Presently Claudette serves as Adult Women’s Sunday School teacher and is president of the Deaconess Ministry. She has served in various positions and on several committees, too, including the Trustee Board.

Claudette Smith feels strongly about her life philosophy. “If you see a need, do something about it if it’s within your power. That’s the Christian way and one of the reasons I love my church so much. Our pastor always tells us if we see a need; don’t wait for someone else to do it. If someone’s lonely, go visit them. Not only in the church but in the community. When God blesses you with an automobile and someone needs to go to the doctor, take them.”

This philosophy keeps her focused and happy. “It is more blessed to give than to receive. It’s truly a blessing to be on the giving end,” said Claudette. “Material things are not for keeping everything for yourself, but giving and sharing with others.”

The other big influence on Claudette’s life was her late husband, Al. “My husband was a very strong person. I’m kind of shy and quiet and don’t care about being in the limelight. He always told me you can do anything.” In order to get a job at DFCS, one was required to take a test designed for those with college educations and Claudette only had one year of college. “Al bought books for me to study and I passed it. This test was even more difficult than the one required to pass now. It’s been revised since then.”

Claudette and Albert Smith brought home many children from Church for Sunday dinner. “There was always some neighborhood kids knocking on the door. We have always done whatever we could when we saw a need,” said Claudette. This included buying Christmas presents, making or buying clothes for some, preparing meals and even paying SAT fees for those who couldn’t afford it.

Next month will mark the fifth year of her husband’s death. Remembering her husband and his influence, Claudette shared, “I didn’t realize it, but it was God doing it all through him. Now it’s just me and God. I am a stronger person now, especially spiritually. God has not limited me to anything. I can do whatever is in His will for my life. As I grow in the knowledge of God’s word, I grow physically, mentally and spiritually. In the end, it’s what you do for God that counts.”

Claudette Chatman Smith will continue to follow those beliefs she has followed throughout her lifetime and she continues to be a blessing and influence to others in our community. As we observe Black History Month, we extend recognition and honor to Claudette Smith, one who has made a difference.

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