Cover photo for James Osborne Smith, Ii's Obituary
James Osborne Smith, Ii Profile Photo
1952 James 2023

James Osborne Smith, Ii

June 9, 1952 — November 29, 2023


In Detroit, Michigan on June 9, 1952, the late Lillian Joyce Griffith was blessed with a son she named James Osborne Smith II. Lillian Joyce named her son to honor her late father James “Jimmy” Osborne Smith was once the principal of Stratton High School in Beckley West Virginia being the first all-black high school in Raleigh County, West Virginia.

As a youth, James enjoyed playing baseball and basketball. He especially loved basketball and would spend hours on the local basketball courts. His love for the sport extended to adulthood and he participated in leagues organized through his professional colleagues. James was a lifelong fan of his hometown teams – the Detroit Lions, the Detroit Tigers, and the Detroit Pistons. He was also an avid fisherman and would travel to remote locations in the U.S. and Canada in search of the best fishing locations.

His love of sports can only be matched by his love of music. James’ large and diverse collection of vinyl records is proof positive of such. He appreciated many genres of music ranging from Jazz to Hard Rock. If you spent any time around him, you would become indoctrinated by enjoyment of music and may hear anyone from Coltrane to Hendrix on his playlist. The latter being one of his favorite musicians.

The trumpet was another of James’s passion. He became quite talented and played in the band while he attended Mackenzie High School in Detroit, MI. His talent was recognized when he was chosen to receive the Loucye Gordy Wakefield Scholarship. Ebony Magazine included an article about this award in its July 1971 issue.

After graduating from Mackenzie High School, he attended Wayne State University. He later married and he and his former wife were blessed with a daughter Nicole Kaye Smith in September of 1973.

In 1974, James began his career with the federal government. Ultimately, he became a federal law enforcement officer as a Supervisory Special Agent with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. During his professional career, James was required to engage in undercover and other law enforcement activities in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s office as well as other federal agencies. Given his excellent job performance, he was periodically assigned to the distinguished duty of serving on the security detail for the then Secretary of the Department of Human Services. While working full-time, James completed college coursework at Northeastern Illinois University from which he received his bachelor’s degree.

In 2005, after more than 30 years of service, James retired from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. During retirement, he traveled to many places around the world – Australia, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil, and Egypt. His travels also included a safari in Tanzania and a fishing trip along the Amazon River.

James transitioned on November 29, 2023. He is survived by his daughter Nicole Kaye Smith; granddaughter Nikki Shyann Travis; grandson Edward James Travis; great grandson Aceon Luis Ortiz; sister Leslie Griffith; sister Ruth Suzanne Griffith; sister Carol Diane Richardson; and his nephew James Ellis Fulton.


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