- This article is about the Salvation Army Commander. For the Southern University president, see Luther M. Smith.
Smith was the younger of two sons born to Luther and Jessie Smith. He was born in Atlanta, but raised in Anniston, playing football and running track. In the early 1930s he worked as a delivery boy for the Anniston Star, and also delivered ice and clerked at a grocery store.
Having been invited by a girl he had a crush on, Smith attended a Salvation Army meeting in 1935. Though his courtship didn't pan out, he had found his life's calling in the mission service field. He was ordained and commissioned by the Salvation Army in 1936 and married the former Jewell Lewis in 1939 in Birmingham (honeymooning at the 1939 New York World's Fair). They served in Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Washington D.C., and Mexico City before coming back to Birmingham in 1971.