Contact: Brittney Dabney, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing
On Sunday, Nov. 10, Tuskegee University will honor the memory of former student-athlete and Mableton, Georgia, native Bobby “B.J.” Smith — known to his tennis teammates and classmates alike for his infectious smile and sense of humor. Smith died on Sept. 28, 2013 — the victim of a stray gunshot at an off-campus block party.
The university will unveil signage at the campus’ Pepsico Tennis Courts in Smith’s memory immediately following its annual Charter Day/Homecoming Convocation. That convocation begins at 9:30 a.m. in the University Chapel.
In addition to the memorial, members of the Office of Development have been working with the Smith family to finalize a $10,000 scholarship created by the university in Smith’s honor, which will be awarded annually to a tennis player beginning this academic year.
Just 16 months prior to B.J.’s passing, his parents, Bobby and Cynthia Smith, lost their daughter Nikki Bazile-Mathis in a car accident. In addition to his parents, B.J. was survived by two other sisters, a special niece with whom he was raised, and plenty of aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and friends he considered to be members of his extended family.
He graduated from Austell’s South Cobb High School in 2010 and was involved in several sports. Tennis, however, was his passion, as demonstrated by his most valuable player status throughout his high school years.
“B.J. was part of the 2010 senior class who welcomed me to South Cobb,” his high school principal Ashley Hosey, who also delivered his eulogy, recalled in an online tribute. “I had the pleasure of handing him his diploma as he headed off to Tuskegee University. However, the most exciting part was watching him mature into a young man who loved college and who was ready to make a difference in the world.”
B.J. majored in finance after enrolling at Tuskegee — “a university B.J. picked for himself and loved,” according to Ms. Smith. A senior when he died, B.J. was scheduled to graduate in May 2014. The university bestowed on him a posthumous degree and full alumni status during its Spring 2014 Commencement Exercises.
Following Smith’s death, head tennis coach Ernest Grant and his teammates named him the team’s honorary captain for the remainder of the season.
“He was a jokester, but he was also the player on the team I knew I could always count on,” Grant said.
On August 26, 2013, — juat a month before his death, Smith became the father to son Dominic, who is now 6. Ms. Smith credits Dominic as her motivation for creating this lasting tribute in B.J.’s memory.
“B.J. loved Tuskegee, and he loved his son,” she recalled. “I want Dominic to have a place where he can understand and reflect on how much his father valued friendships, spirited competition, and education — and the importance all three will play in Dominic’s future too.”
© 2019, Tuskegee University