Carlton Huffman Smith was born in the farming community of New Burlington, OH on August 12, 1899, to Wayne C. and Roma Huffman Smith. Two years later his brother Forrest arrived. Wayne Smith owned a hardware and farm implement store where groceries, candy, and cigars could also be purchased. His mother died when Carlton was four years old. Both sets of grandparents lived in the same village, so Carlton and his brother were well taken care of and loved. Several years after the death of Roma, Wayne married Zella Weer. Twins Ruby and Bob completed the family.
He was class valedictorian in a senior class of five boys and four girls. In the fall of 1916, he entered Ohio Wesleyan University and as a member of the basketball team, his senior year he was named an All Ohio Forward. That same year (1920) he met Miriam Christman, a freshman, at a fraternity dance. Since he would soon be leaving for the University of Minnesota to pursue a Master of Science in Chemistry Degree, Miriam and Carlton agreed “to be engaged to be engaged.” They married in 1923. Their two daughters graduated from Bexley: Phyllis, 1944 and Pricilla, 1947.
Under Coach’s leadership, Bexley attained many winning seasons and titles. Between 1935 and 1940, he dropped coaching track, swimming and baseball but continued with football until 1957 and basketball until 1959. He was Bexley’s golf coach until his retirement in 1967 but then went to St. Charles as their golf coach and chemistry teacher for another two years. In 1962, he was inducted into the Football Coaches Hall of Fame at Rutgers University, New Jersey.
Teaching chemistry brought him much satisfaction and success. He was recognized by the American Chemical Society, being awarded the group’s Chemical Teacher of the Year honor. That competence had long been known by the school’s estimated 200-300 graduates who built careers in the sciences on the corner-stone of chemistry learned from Smith. At the time of his retirement, 25 physicians in the Columbus area and many others scattered throughout the United States along with graduates who distinguished themselves in the field of research received their initial chemistry instruction from Smith.
Judah Folkman, a world-renowned cancer research doctor and a 1950 Bexley grad, paid homage to Carlton Smith during the commencement address Folkman gave in June 2000. An extra-credit project sent Judah and Coach Smith to the physics lab to identify an unknown element. After an hour of study, Judah made a conclusion. By now, late for football practice, Coach kept prodding Judah to investigate further. The outcome-a breakthrough for Judah-physics and chemistry were connected.
Carlton’s industriousness and energy led him to add a number of side ventures to his teaching and coaching. During the Depression, he worked summers for the Columbus Recreation Department and at night at the Linco Gas Station on Main & Cassingham. He started a maple syrup delivery business that grew from a few customers in the 1930s to hundreds by the 1970s. The price grew too-from 50 cents a gallon to $8.00 a gallon. He also refereed basketball and football games. In 1930, Carlton began his long association with Wigwasati and Wabun, canoeing camps on Lake Timagami in Ontario, Canada. Hundreds of Bexley boys and girls spent six or eight weeks at these camps learning to fish, camp, cook and live in the North Woods.
Coach and Miriam were life-long world travelers making trips to Europe, Egypt, the Holy Land, along with going to the near and far East. Prior to Carlton’s retirement, he and Miriam spent two years studying Spanish to prepare for their extended stay in Mallaga, Spain.
His sense of humor was well known. When he was 60 years old, he told his class he could stand on his head for one full minute. The challenge was on. Word spread quickly through school. He carried out his feat on the countertop in the chemistry classroom. The only person not impressed – the principal. Church was a regular and important part of Coach’s week. For many years, he taught Sunday school at Bexley Methodist Church. Attending Sunday services always gave him something to think about in the coming week. One of his often quotes; “I don’t know how anyone could look at anything – even a lump of coal – under a microscope and not believe in God.”
Research and text by Edie Mae Herrel and Nancy Beck
Photos from the Edie Mae Herrel collection
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