J Ray and Ola Smith

He made it through the seventh grade before he had to drop out of school to help support his family in rural Arkansas. Born in 1901, J. Ray Smith plowed his fields and learned to build barns. He married his wife of 60 years, Ola, in 1922. He began working as a laborer for a lumber yard, learning the intricacies of home building. He once told me that the hardest thing he ever did was sell his team of mules and move to Tulsa. He formed the Commercial Lumber Company at 12th and South Lewis and began supplying lumber in the prewar years of Tulsa’s expansion. They joined our church in 1941 where he served as a deacon.  Following the war, J. Ray and Ola organized a young adult Sunday School class that drew the young men from Spartan School of Aeronautics and the young ladies from all around. At that time he invested in the little community of Owasso, seeing the growth potential for low-cost housing to support the working families near the airport and American Airlines. He became a director of the First Bank of Owasso, and eventually opened the Owasso Lumber Company to meet the housing demands of the 1970’s. 

In 1972 the Smiths offered 60 acres of his Owasso land for the site of a new Baptist Children’s Home. A few years later they donated 60 more acres for the addition of the Baptist Retirement Village. Ground was broken for the White City Cottage in 1973 and our church hosted the dedication and reception on June 2, 1974. Ola Smith organized and taught our Lighted Candles class for special needs children. J. Ray was a founder of the Tulsa Baptist Laymens Corporation, which secured Tulakogee Conference Center and the Baptist Student Union building at the University of Tulsa. He served as a director of the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma and as a Trustee of Oklahoma Baptist University. He told me that he never imagined that he would be part of leading a university. At the time of their excitement with the unfolding of the children’s home, J. Ray suffered a stroke. He bounced back quickly but took up walking with a cane.  He was always sharp and used the knowledge that he appeared to be disabled to his advantage, surprising many with how savvy he really was. He succumbed to a massive stroke in 1983. Ola passed away in 1996. Although J. Ray and Ola Smith never had children of their own, their legacy has grown and flourished through these last fifty years. This September 7, a “Super Cottage” will be dedicated. It is built like a duplex; one side will be for boys and the other for girls.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Serve faithfully. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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