Johnny Bernard “JB” Smith, Jr. was born in Pitts, GA to the late Johnny B., Sr. and Ellen Nora Leach Smith. He was preceded in death by twin brothers and a sister, Evelyn Leach Maske.
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Johnny was educated in the Atlanta Public Schools System and was a proud graduate of Booker T. Washington High School. After high school, Johnny served in both the Navy and Army, fighting in the Korean War. Following his military service, Johnny returned to Atlanta and enrolled in Morris Brown College, where he was a member of the marching band. He graduated in the class of 1959 and always spoke of his alma mater with great pride and fondness.
Johnny was a carpenter by trade and joined other family members in working for the construction company of his uncle, G.T. Alexander, building homes in the Hunter Street area of Atlanta. However, Johnny was able to follow his passion for music and love of traveling in his career as a saxophone player He played at various famous jazz venues around the Southeast, including the Royal Peacock and the Cotton Club. After residing in New York for a brief period, Johnny returned to Atlanta and played with the famous Bill Odum Combo.
Johnny was a free spirit who had a big personality that was accompanied by an infectious laugh. He was a proud man who truly cherished life and loved to have a good time. He never met a stranger and was always willing to help others. He had a remarkable memory and often drew on his Christian Science faith and Native American heritage for peace, healing, and comfort.
Johnny’s greatest joy was found in spending time with family. He was revered as the keeper of family history and younger cousins delighted in hearing his stories of times gone by. He was a genuine treasure to his family and has left an indelible legacy.
Left to cherish his memory are devoted cousins and caregivers, Jean Monroe (Larry) Arrington of McDonough, GA and Melanie Washburn of Atlanta; other close cousins, Macauley Washburn of Atlanta, Meika Samuel and Ryann Samuel of Columbia, SC, Justin (Liz) Arrington of Valdosta, GA, Jared and Jeremy Arrington both of Atlanta; and a host of other family and friends.