Dr. Nathaniel Smith is the sixth of fifteen children. He was born on August 10, 1930, to the late Caesar and Virginia Smith, in Wilcox County, Alabama. He grew up in a large family of very limited means, but a family abundant in love and faith. It was in this home where Dr. Smith learned to love the Lord. He was baptized in 1942 and joined the church at this early age. As a young man, he met and married Rose (Watson) Smith, his lifelong love, and partner of over 60 years . Mrs. Rose Smith has been constantly by Dr. Nathaniel Smith’s side, helping to nurture and mature our church.
God blessed their marriage with four beautiful daughters: Shirley (Alvin) Cowans, Renalia (Jimmy) Dubose, Andra Morris, and Natalie (Tyler Sr.) Hardeman. Dr. Smith also has been blessed with eight grandchildren -- Dr. Alvin Jeffery Cowans II, Marcus Cowans, DeWayne Dubose, Lauren (William) Dubose Madison, Terry Morris II, Tyler Morris, Cleveland Brown, and Tyler Hardeman II -- and one great-granddaughter, Olivia Renee Madison.
During his early years, Dr. Nathaniel Smith’s life was full and fruitful. Dr. Smith answered the call to serve his country as an U.S. Army soldier in 1952; he was a Chaplain during the Korean conflict. Dr. Smith has often compared his military experience as an American soldier in the U.S. Army with being a soldier in the army of the Lord. As a soldier in the U.S. Army, his actions helped bring peace to nations, yet Dr. Smith’s work for the Lord has helped bring peace to mankind.
Through the years, Dr. Smith continued to support his growing family as well as answer God’s call to the ministry, then to the role of pastor. His first pastorate was at Rock West Church in Camden, Alabama. However, in 1957 Dr. Smith accepted the call to pastor Antioch. Back then, many people thought a black pastor should only preach the gospel to black people. As a young minister, Dr. Smith believed in God’s word: “I can do all things through Christ Jesus.” for all people. In the 1960s, Dr. Smith went forward -- managing to blend family, faith, education, and working for equality of all men.
Moreover, Dr. Smith has always had a vision and desire to move the church forward. He saw the need to prepare himself academically and theologically for ministry. In 1959, Dr. Smith received his Associate of Arts degree from Selma University. In 1962, he received his Bachelor of Theology from Selma University, followed by an honorary Doctorate degree in 1967 from Selma University, and a Doctor of Theology in 1968 from Easonian Baptist Seminary. During this time, Dr. Smith also recognized the need for a new church building, and with his leadership, the doors of a new Antioch opened in 1966 at 625 North “D” Street.
Dr. Smith has the rare distinction of being a pastor who served his church longer than the physical sanctuary, because from 1966 through 2000 we used 625 North "D" Street as our sole facility. Dr. Nathaniel Smith continued on as Antioch’s only pastor. He also continued to spearhead the growth and development of our church as we moved into the new sanctuary next door at 609 North “D” Street in May 2000. Dr. Smith continued on as our only pastor until Dr. Tyler Hardeman officially joined him as Antioch’s co-pastor in 2010.
Pastor Smith parented a multitude of pastors, preachers, and deacons ordained through Antioch; he has trained many, many Christian soldiers. Dr Smith ventured forward boldly by stepping aside as Pastor in 2013 to become co-pastor as Dr. Hardeman transitioned smoothly to Pastor his beloved Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.
Today, Dr. Smith continues as our co- pastor, marching forward over 58 years. Now looking back, he continues to sing his favorite song: “I know the Lord will make a way.” Dr. Smith often says, “The winds may blow, the storms may rise, but I’m going to stay right here, I’m going to stay right here” and that -- he surely has done.