BY THE DAYTONA TIMES STAFF
Jarvis L. Smith, a well-known organist and broadcaster who spearheaded the construction of Daytona Beach’s latest FM radio station, died suddenly on April 6. He was 34. A determination of the cause of his death is pending.
Born July 15, 1980 in Daytona Beach, Smith is the great-grandson of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, the founder of Bethune-Cookman College (now University). Family members say that at 6 years old, Smith had a lemonade stand on his grandparents’ front porch. Even as a child, he loved working for himself.
A 1998 graduate of Seabreeze High School, Smith studied business administration at Keiser University in Daytona Beach.
Worked at WPUL-AM
Smith was introduced to the inner workings of the radio industry while working at WPUL-AM 1590 in the 1990s.
“He filled for Daytona’s ‘First Lady of Gospel,’ Mattie Howard, and our other gospel DJs on the few times they couldn’t come in,” remembered Daytona Times Publisher Charles W. Cherry II.
“I was surprised that Daddy (the late Charles W. Cherry, Sr.) would let such a young man on the air on a consistent basis. But Jarvis was dependable, had a good radio voice, and was easy to work with. Eventually he had his own four-hour gospel music show.”
But Smith was probably best known for his skills as an organist. He was nationally known as “the B3 Prophet” because of his gift for playing the Hammond B3 organ.
“If he could hear it, he could play it,” said his aunt, Dr. Evelyn Bethune.
Smith also played for nationally known gospel artists, including Marvin Sapp and John P. Kee, among many others. He served as an organist or minister of music for a number of Central Florida churches, including Tubman-King, Hope Fellowship, Mount Carmel Baptist, Revival Temple, Calvary Temple of Praise, New Bethel AME, and Greater Trinity Baptist.
At the time of his death, Smith was a member of Fresh Breath International Worship Center in Orlando, where he served as minister of music under Pastor Daniel Ings.
Wife, kids, business
As a younger man, Smith held a series of jobs as a school bus driver, a sales marketing manager in the auto industry, and a call center operator before finally starting his own business.
In his personal life, he moved to Orlando and married the former Andrea Miller in 2004, and they started a family. In 2009, Smith founded Rhema Media, Inc., and began broadcasting Joy Gospel Radio on the Internet.
In 2013, he formed a non-profit corporation, Rhema Broadcasting, Inc., with the goal of establishing a low-power FM station in Daytona Beach that would play gospel music 24 hours a day.
That dream was realized on Dec. 8, 2014 when the Federal Communications Commission granted Rhema Broadcasting a construction permit to build the station and put it on the air.
WAIG, known as Joy 106.3 FM, began broadcast operations in Daytona Beach in January 2015.
“This is such a tragically huge loss for his family, especially his wife and children,” Cherry II acknowledged. “It’s a great loss for the community, too. Jarvis had the experience and the work ethic necessary to make a 24-hour, community-oriented gospel station a success. I hope the community will rally around the family, and that the station’s leadership works to make WAIG the success Jarvis knew it could be.”
Smith is survived by his wife of almost 11 years, Andrea Miller Smith; daughter Ayanna, age 8, and son Amari, age 5; his mother, Sara Bethune Smith and father Andy Barron; brothers Le’Nard and Christopher Harold; sister Julia Barron White (Gaston); mother in-law Carolyn Miller and father in-law Roosevelt Miller; aunt Dr. Evelyn Bethune; uncles Hobson Bethune (Muriel) and Robert Bethune (Terrie); and a host of other in-laws, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
A wake will be held Friday at 6 p.m. at The Hope Church of Orlando, 3032 Monte Carlo Trail, Orlando.
Homegoing service will be held April 11, 1 p.m. at the Master’s Domain Church of God In Christ, 511 Fremont Ave.
Gail & Wynn’s Mortuary, Inc., 1300 Bruton Blvd., Orlando, is in charge of arrangements.
An online donation fund has been established for Smith’s wife and children. Go to http://www.gofundme.com/r8ea2d8 or go to http://www.gofundme.com and search “Jarvis Smith” to give.