Roosevelt "Catfish" Smith

April 29, 1921 ~ July 31, 2020 (age 99)


Rogersville:  Roosevelt "Catfish" Smith, age 99, of Rogersville, went to be with his Lord on Friday, July 31, 2020.  He was a member of the Rogersville First Baptist Church.  Roosevelt was a lifetime resident of Hawkins County.  He was born 29 April 1921 in Christian's Bend, to Jesse and Verdie Simpson Smith, their 4the child of 10 children.


Roosevelt and Elizabeth met while working in Rogersville on projects for the WPA.  The boys would peep in the windows looking at the pretty girls working in a room at the courthouse.  He found the most beautiful girl and made her his loving lifetime partner.  He was with the project making armchairs for use in schools.  Elizabeth was training for seamstress.

Herman Christian married Roosevelt and Elizabeth on 21 September 1941 in Christian's Bend. They lived in Christian's Bend for about three years before moving to Rogersville.


April 1945 Roosevelt left by bus from Rogersville to Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia, leaving two young daughters at home with their Mother. After being sworn into the Navy he was put on the "Tennessean" train to Maryland.  After 8 weeks Boot Camp in Maryland, he received a 14-day furlough to visit his family in Rogersville on his way by train to Shoemaker, California.  His assignment was to the "U. S. S. Petrof Bay", aircraft carrier #80.  As a ship fitter, he performed maintenance on the ship along with welding and pipefitting.


He traveled in January and February 1946 to different islands such as Saipan, Guam, and Midway to pick up soldiers to be returned to the United States at San Francisco Bay.  Later from Long Beach, California he traveled down the west coast, through the Panama Canal, up the east coast to Charleston, South Carolina, Norfolk, Virginia and then on to New York harbor where Roosevelt, a Seaman First Class, USNR, was discharged at Lido Beach, Long Island, New York on 7 April 1946.  He received the American Theater Medal, Asiatic Pacific Medal, and the Victory Medal.


Roosevelt's Dad was a fisherman who caught a huge catfish one day.  Roosevelt borrowed the largest washtub his Mother had and took the catfish to work to give to his boss at Eastman.  The catfish in the washtub was viewed all shift long by fellow workers who wanted to see that "Big Catfish".  After that day Roosevelt was known as "Catfish".  After 40 years he retired from the Tennessee Eastman as foreman with less than 8the grade education.


Roosevelt was an excellent craftsman.  He was always making furniture which included chest of drawers, dressers, tables, vases, jewelry boxes, recipe boxes, picture frames and all kinds of little dodads.  He refinished a wooden bed that his great grandfather had made and was put together using wood pegs.  In the 1950s he made a small boat for a friend of the family.


Roosevelt served as Deacon at the First Baptist Church in Rogersville.  He kept in close touch with the church members in his group by phone and cards. He spent hours and days at the church helping do maintenance.  He worked tirelessly doing repair work or anything anyone needed at the church.  In a storage room he found broken pieces of little wooden chairs from the nursery.  He took those pieces plus pieces he made and remade a lot of the chairs that could be used again.


His wife, Elizabeth, made a lot of quilts and Roosevelt kept her sewing machine in good condition while watching her piece quilts.  After she passed away he started piecing quilts and making baby quilts. The baby quilts were his favorite.  We lost count of the number of baby quilts he made and gave away to Mothers when and wherever he saw a pregnant woman or a new Mother with a baby.


The ladies at the First Baptist Church decided to make pillowcase dresses for the little girls in Africa.  Roosevelt decided he would help.  He sewed over one hundred little dresses from pillowcases and yards of material, which he purchased.  He sure made a lot of little girls happy.

 He was preceded in death by his loving wife of 67 years, Elizabeth Helton Smith; parents, Jesse Lafatte and Verdie Ann Simpson Smith; six brothers, Earl and wife, Douglas, Tillman, Calvin and wife, Louise, Raymond, Jesse, Jr.  and Huey; two sisters, Elsie Caldwell and husband, Carson and Lotus Virginia Arnold and husband, Hiram.


Roosevelt is survived by two daughters, Carolyn Ann Gardner and husband, Darryl, and Brenda Joan Buchanan and  husband, George Eddie; one granddaughter, Yvette Janine Munsey and husband, Eddie;  two great-granddaughters, Kayla Elizabeth Harrell and Elishia Marie Harrell;  one great-great-grandson, Jameson Bundren;  one brother, D. L. Smith and wife, Joann;  sister-in-law, Wanda McLain Smith; several nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.


Our thanks to Dr. Amy Haynes for all the loving care she provided Roosevelt and Elizabeth over the years and to each worker at Church Hill Health and Rehab Center for their special care and the love they gave to our Dad "Catfish".  Our thanks to the Avalon Hospice of Kingsport for their compassionate care and assistance.


Visitation will be 1:00 P.M. to 2:00 P.M., Sunday, August 2, 2020 at Broome Funeral Home, Rogersville


Funeral service will be conducted 2:00 P.M., Sunday, August 2, 2020 in the funeral home chapel with Rev. Stevie Rogers officiating.  Burial will follow in Highland Cemetery.


Online condolences may be made at


Broome Funeral Home Rogersville is honored to serve the Smith family.


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


August 2, 2020

1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Broome Funeral Home
513 East Main Street
Rogersville, TN 37857

Funeral Service
August 2, 2020

2:00 PM
Broome Funeral Home
513 East Main Street
Rogersville, TN 37857

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