Past National Commander Ray Smith passed away at his home Wednesday after a lengthy illness.

PNC Ray Smith passes away

Past National Commander Ray Smith, who led The American Legion in 2000 and 2001, passed away at his home Wednesday after a lengthy illness. He was 78 years old.

A resident of Benson, N.C., Smith was a life member of Banner Post 109. He joined The American Legion on Sept. 7, 1955, a day after he left the Air Force. Forty-five years later, on Sept. 7, 2000, Legionnaires elected him national commander at the 82nd National Convention in Milwaukee.

A Korean War veteran, Smith served The American Legion in a number of other leadership positions, including national vice commander, department commander, post commander and chairman of several department commissions. He also served as post adjutant for 20 years.

Smith owned and operated Benson Electrical Co. for 26 years. He retired from the U.S. Postal Service in 1995.

Smith's funeral will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Banner American Legion Post 109 in Benson, N.C. Burial will follow in Roselawn Cemetery.

Smith is survived by his wife, Helen. They have three children, Anita Norris, Gordon Smith and Amy Creed, and six grandchildren.

Condolences can be sent to Helen at 322 W. Main St., Benson, NC 27504.

A more in-depth article about Smith, including comments from his Legion colleagues and friends, will appear online this week.