Smith, Jo Ann

More photo images at bottom.

Smith, Jo Ann

HFA Founder Jo Ann Smith Passes Away

Jo Ann Smith, widow of Jack Smith, passed away on Friday, September 13, 2019. She had been a resident of Wake County since 1947, most recently at Spring Arbor of Raleigh, in Knightdale from 1999-2018, and in Raleigh previously.

A memorial service will be held at 11:00 am, Saturday, October 5, 2019 at Green Pines Baptist Church, 1498 Hodge Road, Knightdale, NC 27545. Visitation will follow the service. 

Jo Ann Smith’s Autobiography

- written in 2016 - 

Jo Ann Smith was born April 9, 1929 in Dundee, Florida, the youngest of three daughters of Robert Nathan Smith and Ellen Higdon Smith. (Sisters Frances and Nell are now deceased.)  Jo Ann was the only family member born in Florida after her father began working in the citrus industry.  Her Jackson County NC paternal grandparents were Clara Coward Smith and 1889 State Senator Lewis J. Smith, a founder of a school that is now Western Carolina University.  Her maternal grandparents were Martha Frances “Pattie” Rich Higdon and Thomas Bragg Higdon, Sheriff of Macon County NC (as his father had been also).  Bragg also served as Macon County Representative in the NC General Assembly in 1909.

After Jo Ann's father died when she was five, her family moved to Winter Haven, Florida, where Jo Ann attended school.  She attended First Baptist Church in Winter Haven and was baptized there on March 26, 1939.  After graduating from Winter Haven High School in 1947, she attended Wake Forest College.  In 1951, she began working in Raleigh NC where she met NC State graduate H. A. “Jack” Smith.  After he served two years of military duty, he married Jo Ann at First Baptist Church in Raleigh on December 19, 1953.  While a member of First Baptist Church, Jo Ann taught a children's Sunday School class for six years.

Jack and Jo Ann had two sons.  Their son Andy was born in 1955, and their son Douglas was born in 1956.  In 1964, Jack and Jo Ann became legal guardians of Jim Robinson, a 12 year old boy who needed a home, and he became like a son to them as he grew up in their home.  (He called them “Mom” and “Dad”.)

Being a Smith who married a Smith, Jo Ann researched and compiled their family history. She loved history and enjoyed being a historian.

Jo Ann became a Senate committee clerk during the 1955 General Assembly.  At that time, the General Assembly was only in session about 5 months in a 2 year period, so Jo Ann returned during the 1957, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1965, and 1967 legislative sessions as a Senate committee clerk.  Also, she served as the inaugural committee's secretary for incoming Governors Terry Sanford, Dan K. Moore, and Robert (Bob) Scott.  In 1969, she was elected Principal Clerk of the NC House of Representatives and re-elected in 1971 and 1973.  In 1973, she was named “Tarheel of the Wee” by the News and Observer. When the 1973 legislative session was “stretched” into 1974, she resigned as Principal Clerk.  After serving briefly on the State Board of Elections, she helped Congressman Ike Andrews during his election.  After that, she devoted her time to a business which she established and operated it until she retired at age 62.  Among her clients were the NC Landscape Contractors Association, the NC Association of Nurserymen, and many others.

As her business kept expanding, her husband Jack resigned from his state government position to help supervise this business, which was incorporated as B.S.U. Inc.  Jo Ann and Jack had a very good marriage.  They enjoyed working together and were active in their church.

When both of their mothers became ill in the early 1980's, Jo Ann and Jack moved into a larger house to have adequate space available for their mothers.  After moving there, they became members of Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church beside their home.  For six years, Jo Ann taught a children's Sunday School class.  When Jo Ann and Jack learned about Bible Study Fellowship, they attended this in-depth Bible study for several years and were very blessed by it. After both of their mothers died, Jack met the Creedmoor Road Baptist Church minister who was from Gastonia where Jack had grown up, and he and Jo Ann began going to this church and then moved their church membership there. 

In 1990-1991, Jo Ann and Jack provided a home for a five year old girl in need, and Jo Ann considered this to be one of the best years of her life because this child was so special.  In 1999, Jack and Jo Ann, being retirees, purchased a home in Knightdale and had five wonderful years there before Jack became ill. They enjoyed daily walks on a walking trail in their neighborhood.  Also they enjoyed delivering “Meals on Wheels”.  Each Sunday they drove an elderly lady (who almost lived to be 100) to Creedmoor Road Baptist Church until Jack became ill in mid-2004.  Although quite ill, he wanted to go to church on December 19, 2004, which was his and Jo Ann's 51st wedding anniversary, so Jo Ann drove him there.  Jack died two weeks later on January 2, 2005.

After having a very good marriage for 51 years, being a widow was difficult for Jo Ann, but she knew The Good Lord was with her and asked Him to lead, guide, and direct her through the remaining days of her life.  Because of distance, she wasn't able to attend Creedmoor Road Baptist Church as regularly as in the past, but she tried to attend JOY (Just Older Youth) which met there on Tuesday mornings. Since she was unable to drive after dark, some neighbors offered to drive her to Green Pines Baptist Church near her home in Knightdale on Wednesday nights and to Senior Adult Fellowship.  She made many Christian friends there and enjoyed the church activities.  Although elderly, she enjoyed being able to participate in Christian activities at both churches as often as possible, since both are “part of the family of God”.  She felt blessed to have many Christian friends in these two churches, as well as some she met at Sunshine Seniors, an organization she joined after becoming a widow.  Jo Ann's son Douglas and his wife Betty are deceased.  

Surviving are her son Andy and his wife Louise, grandson Patrick Smith and granddaughter Dr. Sarah S. Heckman, the mother of two girls.  Jo Ann also has several nieces and nephews.

Jo Ann Smith - Details of Her Genealogy - from the Higdon Family Association Website -

Jo Ann Smith had a life-long interest in history and government. She is the daughter of Ellen Higdon and Robert Nathan Smith. She is married to H. A. “Jack” Smith. Both of her grandfathers served in the North Carolina General Assembly. Her maternal grandfather, Thomas Bragg Higdon of Macon County, North Carolina, served two terms as sheriff and one term as member of the House of Representatives. Her paternal grandfather, Lewis J. Smith of Jackson County, North Carolina, served as register of deeds and as a State Senator. He also was a founder of Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina

Jo Ann was a business owner for many years. She is an editor and has authored many publications.

She was the editor of the Higdon Family News for twenty years. She is a charter member of the North Carolina Genealogical Society. And she has served as the Secretary to Inaugural Committees for three North Carolina governors. Jo Ann was elected to three terms as Principal Clerk of the North Carolina House of Representatives and was responsible for preparing the House Journal.

Jo Ann Smith was the moving force behind the founding of our Higdon Family Association. She had created, and distributed, the Higdon Family News letter for 20 years when she sent an invitation to the Higdon Family News subscribers asking if any subscribers would be interested in forming an association, and if so, to join Jo Ann and Jack Smith at the Summitt Inn in Franklin, North Carolina on August 29 and 30, 1975. The Higdon Family Association, Inc. has been meeting once each year since that weekend. 

The group of Higdons below who met at the organizational meeting in 1975 voted to form The Higdon Family Association, Inc. and they agreed to officially meet in October, 1976 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Kneeling- Grady Higdon, Sam Higdon, Arnold Higdon, Ethel Byce, and Jo Ann Smith Standing- Charles E. Higdon, Edd Higdon, Delmar Higdon and wife, Ruby Higdon Lord and husband


From left, standing: Charles E. Higdon, Edd Higdon, Delmar Higdon and wife, Ruby Higdon Lord and husband 

Kneeling: Grady Higdon, Sam Higdon, Arnold Higdon, Ethel Byce, and Jo Ann Smith

H. A. "Jack" Smith and Jo Ann Smith

At right, H. A. “Jack” Smith and Jo Ann Smith. Many who atttended the organizational meeting stayed over to attend the annual Higdon Reunion in Higdonville, North Carolina.  

Jo Ann Smith planned the meeting and greeted folks upon arrival

Jo Ann Smith planned the meeting and greeted folks upon arrival. It was the first official meeting of the HFA. As was true of the first meeting, attendees at the annual meetings of the association will find new relatives, make lasting friendships, and have fun. 

The top 3 photographs were scanned from the book: The Higdon Family Association by Jo Ann Smith.

H. A. "Jack" Smith

At the initial 1976 meeting, H. A. “Jack" Smith chaired the meeting until Frank B. Higdon, Jr. was elected President; the gavel was passed to Frank who presided over the rest of the meeting.

The first official meeting of the Higdon Family Association was held October 15-17, 1976 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Incorporation papers were filed with the Secretary of State's Office. A constitution and bylaws were adopted and a board of directors was elected. 

The new board consisted of:

President Frank B. Higdon

  • 1st Vice President Dr. Robert S. Higdon
  • 2nd Vice President Violet D. Hunsucker
  • 3rd Vice President Arnold Higdon
  • Secretary/Treasurer Jo Ann Smith


  • Charles E. Higdon
  • Thelma Higdon Fitzwater
  • Earl D. Higdon
  • Helen Higdon Allison
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