YLA leader dead at 69

Published 9:09 am Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Those who worked closest to Atmore businessman Kingston “Nick” Smith will also remember him as a volunteer with a “can do” attitude.

Smith, 69, was found dead at his home just before 1 p.m. Saturday after officers with the Atmore Police Department performed a welfare check of his Highland Avenue home at the request of relatives who were unable to contact him.

Upon arrival to Smith’s home, officers noted that the home was secure and there was no answer at the door. Smith was discovered lying on the floor.

Nick Smith

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Smith, owner of Custom Travel in Atmore, has put forth countless hours of volunteering for the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce as director of Youth Leadership Atmore. When news of his untimely death began circulating throughout town, his friends and colleagues were shocked.

“I’m just so sad,” Chamber Office Manager Shelly Williams said. “I can’t remember a time during my 15 plus years here in Atmore working at the Chamber that Nick wasn’t helping with Chamber events and programs. He never said ‘no.’  Nick was a strong supporter and volunteer for the Chamber.”

Chamber Executive Director Sheryl Vickery said Smith’s role at the Chamber was so crucial that it is hard to imagine having to replace him.

“It will be hard to replace Nick,” she said. “All I had to do was call him and he would come running. You will not find a better volunteer. My heart does ache.”

Williams added that Smith’s “passion” was the Youth Leadership Atmore Program, which he has been a committee member of since 1997.

“Nick has been serving as committee chairman since 2008 and has been instrumental in raising the needed funding to keep the YLA Program alive for many years,” she said. “He really cared for the students and they knew it. Nick will be missed so much – he was our friend.”

Vickery agrees stating YLA will never be the same without Smith.

“Nick was such an asset to the YLA program,” she said. “He took this program to heart. The hours he spent planning for YLA throughout the year was amazing.”

Former Atmore Chamber director Emilie Mims, who currently serves as Escambia County Judge of Probate, had the opportunity to work with Smith early on and still speaks highly of his volunteerism.

“It was my pleasure to work with Nick Smith on several Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce initiatives,” Mims said. “The Spotlight Awards, which were awarded to businesses and individuals for excellence in the community were Nick’s idea. He should however be most remembered for his devotion to the Youth Leadership Atmore initiative, a program which helps high school juniors to realize their leadership potential. Nick became involved with Youth Leadership Atmore in 1997 shortly after its inception and was serving as chairman at the time of his death. His fundraising efforts on behalf of this program are legendary. With vast experience in the travel industry, his attention to detail was unparalleled. Participants in Youth Leadership Atmore loved his enthusiasm while respecting the high standards he set for each class and each student. He constantly pushed to bring new experiences to this program. He will be missed.”

Aside from his work with the Chamber, Smith also served on the Friends of Education Board, the HIPPY Advisory Board and The Atmore Advance’s Reader Advisory Board for several years.

Although foul play is not suspected, an autopsy was performed to find out the cause of death.