sidebar menu icon


SMITH, JAMES FRANKLIN (1868–1920). James Franklin Smith, pastor and civic reformer, son of John Wesley and Emily Elizabeth (Combs) Smith, was born on December 24, 1868, near Gadsden, Crockett County, Tennessee. His scant rural schooling during Reconstruction was followed by four years of teaching. While sustaining himself by part-time teaching and preaching, he attended Bethel College, McKenzie, Tennessee, graduated in 1892, and was ordained the same year. He received the B.D. degree from Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1895. In 1896 he took an A.M. degree from Columbia University and was graduated the same year from the Union Theological Seminary in New York. He accepted a call from the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Dallas, Texas, in October 1896, and came to a small congregation worshiping in a long frame building in a residential section of the city. This pastorate, which Smith held for the rest of his life, was marked by an unusual growth in membership and enlarged church properties. Within fifteen months a new, downtown church was completed and renamed Central Presbyterian Church. Under Smith's leadership a City Temple was completed in time for his church to serve as host to the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., in 1918. Save for a six-month trip abroad in 1901, Smith gave his entire time to his church and causes such as the abolition of race-track gambling, prostitution, and open saloons on Sunday. Smith was the recipient of many honors outside his own congregation, including an honorary doctorate from Trinity University in 1906. The general assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., named him moderator for 1918–19, the highest honor the church can bestow. During his period as moderator, the New Era movement was launched. His first book, an exposition of his religious concepts and personal philosophy, was published in 1914 under the title My Father's Business and Mine.His autobiography, A Journey across Fifty Friendly Years (1920), was written and finished shortly before his death. On September 9, 1904, he married Lillian Duff Neal of Louisville, Kentucky; they had two sons. Smith died on July 15, 1920.

Dallas Morning News, July 17, 1920.
Dan Ferguson

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Dan Ferguson, "Smith, James Franklin," accessed November 19, 2017,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.