US Marine Corps

Joseph H. Smith

December 5, 1923 ~ September 21, 2018 (age 94)


Joseph H. Smith died on September 21, 2018 in Urbana, IL at the age of 94. Joseph was born on October 5, 1923 in Maywood, Illinois to Charles Smith and Mabel Rice. He attended Thyne Institute, Chase City, Virginia, from 1937-1942.  A veteran of World War II, Joseph joined the Marine Corps in 1943 and was assigned to base camp at Montford Point, Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was honorably discharged in 1946.  He graduated from Howard University, Washington, DC in 1951 with a degree in English and received his Master’s degree in Education from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA in 1953.  Joseph married LaVerne Roberts, the daughter of his father’s childhood friend, in 1951.  Together they had three children, Pamela, Daniel, and Jocelyn.

From 1954-1964, Joseph taught at the elementary, junior, and senior high schools and a junior college in Jackson. Joseph began his career at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1964, where he was one of the first African-American faculty members hired by the University. In 1978, he was named Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Director of Affirmative Action, and Associate Professor of English.

He was a long-time member of the Chapel of Saint John the Divine and served in his local parish, the Diocese of Springfield and the Episcopal Church in several roles: Lay Eucharistic Minister, vestry member, Diocesan Synod delegate, Diocesan Standing Committee, Board of Trustees, Seminary of the Southwest; Board of Trustees, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary.

Joseph was a member of the Montford Point Marine Association.  In 2012, he was proud to be among the 368 surviving Montford Point Marines who were recognized by Congress with the nation's highest civilian honor, the congressional gold medal.

Joseph supported a number of local organizations including the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club and Krannert Center.

Joseph is survived by his daughters Pamela Smith, Indianapolis, Indiana and Jocelyn Leatherwood, Annandale, Virginia, and his grandson Christopher Overstreet, Indianapolis, Indiana. He is preceded in death by his wife LaVerne, his son Daniel; and his sister Mary Constance.

Renner-Wikoff Chapel, 1900 S. Philo Rd., Urbana, is assisting the family with arrangements. A funeral is scheduled for Saturday, November 10, 1 p.m. at the Chapel of St. John the Divine, Champaign, with a reception to follow at the Canterbury House (next to the church). In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Chapel of Saint John the Divine, Carle Hospice, or the University of Illinois Foundation for the Joseph H. Smith Award in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

The family would like to thank the caregivers from Home Instead, the staff at Clark-Lindsey, and Carle Hospice for their care and dedication.   

Condolences may be offered at


To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Joseph H. Smith, please visit our floral store.


You can still show your support by sending flowers directly to the family, or by planting a memorial tree in the memory of Joseph H. Smith
© 2020 Renner-Wikoff Chapel & Crematory. All Rights Reserved. Funeral Home website by CFS & TA | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy