Kenneth Lee Smith, a retired Baltimore schools track and field coach and teacher who officiated at running events, died of heart disease Feb. 11 at Meadow Park Rehabilitation in Randallstown. The Gwynn Oak resident was 68.
Born in Reading, Pa., he was the son of Dr. Peter J. Smith, a dentist, and Edith E. Smith, a homemaker and community volunteer. A 1968 Reading Senior High School graduate, he played saxophone in the school band, was on the football and basketball teams, and ran track. He earned a physical education degree at Morgan State University and took school honors in Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association events as a sprinter.
“Kenny’s love for track was fueled by his special relationship with his uncle, Josh Culbreath, who won the 1956 Olympics bronze medal in the 400-meter hurdles,” said his sister-in-law, Lisa Sheppard of Carrollton, Va. “His uncle was from Norristown, and Ken was an adoring nephew.”
The two runners remained close and sought advice from each other.
Mr. Smith taught and coached in the Philadelphia, Hawthorne, Calif., and Elizabeth City, N.C., school systems. He taught locally at the Charles H. Hickey School and in the Howard and Anne Arundel County school systems. In Baltimore, he taught at Reginald Lewis School, Southwestern High School and Harlem Park Middle School.
In 1985 while coaching at Howard High School, his boys outdoor track team won a state championship.
He was also an assistant track coach at Morgan State.
Mr. Smith met his future wife, Kyle Robinson, while both taught at the Hickey School. He was teaching physical education and coaching boys on the school’s track team.
“He was very outgoing. Every place he went he knew somebody,” his wife said.
As a running coach, he worked with Rochelle Stevens, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist in the 4x400-meter relay. He also coached Morgan alumna Wenda “Wendy” Vereen, a 1993 World Indoor Championship gold medalist on the women’s 4x400 relay team.
“He helped many of his athletes earn personal-best times in a variety of events and get college scholarships over the years,” Sheppard said.
In addition to his coaching, Mr. Smith was an official at high school and college track events. He was active in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, CIAA, Mid-Atlantic Athletic Association and USA Track and Field.
“Most people knew him as the starter that didn’t take any mess, and someone that wanted to get the track meet done as quickly and efficiently as possible,” his sister-in-law said. “From time to time, you could hear Kenny singing, “I’m so glad I go to Morgan State!” He was a proud Morgan Bear and to him, no other school mattered.”
He was a past president of the Varsity M Club, Morgan State’s athletic booster association.
Mr. Smith was honored at the 2017 Morgan State University Annual Legacy Track Meet for his accomplishments in track and field as a runner, coach and official. He was named a Johns Hopkins Demonstration Teacher while teaching in Baltimore.
Mr. Smith joined the local Phi Theta Fraternity’s Alpha Chapter as a student and remained active in the group.
He was a member of the Morning Star Baptist Church in Catonsville, sang in the men’s choir and was an usher board member.
A memorial service will be held at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Wylie Funeral Home at 9200 Liberty Road in Randallstown.
Survivors include his wife of 27 years, a retired Anne Arundel County schoolteacher; three daughters, Dawn Lacey and Jessica Gaymon, both of Philadelphia, and Kia Smith of Beltsville; two brothers, Peter Smith of Philadelphia and Dr. Dwight Smith of Los Angeles; two sisters, Sharon Smith and Terri Hudson, both of Philadelphia; and seven grandchildren.