Clifford Smith loved sports. He was a gifted athlete that turned his passion for athletics and coaching into a life that impacted numerous individuals beyond the playing field.
Visitation will be held from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Tuesday, December 22, 2020 at The Hamil Family Funeral Home.
Funeral services will be held at 12:00 noon, December 23, 2020 at Westgate Church of Christ, 402 S. Pioneer Drive. Burial with Military Honors will immediately follow in The Texas State Veterans Cemetery at Abilene. Funeral services are under the direction of The Hamil Family Funeral Home, 6449 Buffalo Gap Road, Abilene.
A leap-year baby, Clifford Lee was born to Charles and Myda Smith on Feb. 29, 1948 in Littlefield, Texas. He was a husky boy and his uncle Homer commented that he was a “buster.” The name stuck and most of his childhood friends knew him as Buster Smith. He was an only child for six years before his brother Charles was born followed by Glenn and then Terry.
Clifford was always playing or watching sports, but as a child he really loved baseball. Much to his mother’s dismay, he would often sneak out of school to watch the World Series, especially when the New York Yankees were playing.
He played sports for the Littlefield Wildcats before graduating in 1967. He often told his children about trying out for the New York Yankees after high school. He did not make the cut, but the organization considered him a prospect and wanted him to hone his skills. Instead, like many of his peers, he saw the Vietnam draft looming and opted to join the United States Army. He served as a financial clerk in Frankfurt, Germany, but because of his athletic ability he was also on the football, baseball, and bowling teams. As the quarterback for the Tascon Titans he led his team to the European Theater of Operations League Championship. He said his time in Germany made him truly appreciate the beautiful sunny days in West Texas.
After his service ended, he attended South Plains College on the GI bill before continuing his education at Texas Tech University. That is when his life-long love for the Red Raiders was cemented. He enjoyed all Texas Tech sports but the basketball teams of the 1970s created great memories for him. He was also a big fan of the Goin’ Band from Raiderland.
In 1972 he married Janice Benham and their first child, Michelle Elaine, was born in January of 1973. Three sons followed: Jeffery Chad in November of 1974, Jeremy Lee in May of 1981 and Andrew Landon in December of 1985. Michelle, Chad and Jeremy are all Red Raiders which he considered a great parenting accomplishment.
His first coaching job was as a junior high coach in Kress, Texas. That was the start of a 42-year career in Texas public education. He coached and taught in Hale Center, Dimmitt, Merkel, Slaton, Quanah and Abilene.
He married Debbie Denison on Dec. 31, 1997 and added daughters Micah and Rayme to his family. In 2003 he became the Athletic Director and Dean of Students at Lincoln Middle School in Abilene. He retired from Craig Middle School in 2015. He and Debbie were active members of the Westgate Church of Christ.
His passion for sports continued into retirement. He loved playing golf. He played nearly every week and even volunteered at the Maxwell Golf Club in exchange for some time on the course. He marked attending the Masters off his bucket list in 2014. And, he always had his clubs in the back of his truck, just in case…
Coach, as he was affectionately known to his grandchildren, died from complications of COVID-19 on December 20, 2020. He had no underlying conditions and was a very fit and healthy man. He was preceded in death by his father Charles in 2005 and his mother Myda in November 2020. He was heartbroken by the death of his son Andrew in 1986.
Mourning this devastating and unexpected loss are his wife of 23 years Debbie; his three brothers and their spouses: Charles and Susan Smith of San Antonio, TX, Glenn and Kim Smith of Edmond, OK, and Terry and Jackie Smith of Littlefield, TX; his children and their spouse: Michelle and David Hougland, Kayci and Chad Smith and Jeremy Smith, all of Lubbock, TX; Micah and Josh Donowho and Rayme and Mason Yarborough all of Abilene, TX. He is forever in the hearts of his nine grandchildren, numerous nephews and nieces, countless former students, athletes, fellow coaches, and friends.
The service will be live streamed for those not able to attend the funeral service, please go to the Westgate Church of Christ’s webpage at www.westgatecofc.com or the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/westagatecofc,.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the Coach Clifford Smith Memorial Fund at City Bank in Lubbock, Texas. As a final request, his family asks that you please wear a mask when out in public and practice social distancing. These measures can help reduce the risk that members of our community will die unnecessarily and leave loved ones heartbroken and devastated.