Selden Emerson Smith, small-town doctor, college basketball star, World War II Navy pilot, and long-time pillar of the community he served, Wolfe City, Texas, died in a Denison hospital on Nov. 8. He was 94. Raised in Monett, Missouri, Emerson went to college at Washington University in St. Louis, and Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) in Stillwater, OK, where he played for legendary coach Henry Iba in the mid 1940s. He played in the national championship NIT Tournament in New York’s Madison Square Garden (at the time, more prominent than the NCAA tournament). After finishing medical school at the Kansas City School of Osteopathy, Emerson interned in Dallas for a year and then in 1954 moved to the small farming community of Wolfe City, Texas, about 65 miles northeast of Dallas, where he set up practice as a family doctor. He reopened Wolfe City Hospital, later to become the Smith Nursing Home, where he worked until his retirement in 1993. With Marjorie Louise Pittman (1925-2011), Emerson had four sons—Steven, Daniel, Stuart and Bruce. When he wasn’t pinning hips, setting broken bones, or delivering babies, Emerson could often be seen with his boys–all active athletes like their father–playing catch, shooting hoops, or hitting golf balls outside the Smith home next door. A veteran pilot, Emerson owned a small private plane and was renowned for flying his Beechcraft Bonanza from a grass airport north of Wolfe City all over the country—including on a remarkable doctor’s goodwill work trip in the mid 1960s to offer medical care for impoverished Tarahumara Indians in northern Mexico.
After a divorce in 1972, Emerson found the love of his life, Alice Parkes, a widow in nearby Sherman. Alice and her three children, Susan (1957-2014), Mary Alice, and Joe, formed a close family bond with Emerson that lasted 45 years. He and Alice traveled the world by plane (often his own beloved Beechraft Bonanza) and cruise ship playing golf everywhere, including annual winter trips to Palm Springs, California, frequently hosting huge family reunions in Texas, Florida, and Mexico. The reunions brought together the family that Alice and Emerson made: all seven children, nine grandchildren and a growing number of great-grandchildren.
A life-long member of the Wolfe City Methodist Church—who both sang and occasionally slept in the choir—Emerson, like his own father and brother, possessed a wonderful voice. He was one of the founding members of Webb Hill Country Club outside Wolfe City, where he enjoyed many rounds of golf (not all of them with completely accurate scores) with Alice and friends. He served many years on the Wolfe City School Board, Kiwanis Club, and the Chamber of Commerce. He coached Little League for years and was extremely active in the Republican Party, once hosting a meet and greet in his own home with George H.W. Bush, then running for Congress. As Hunt County Chairman of the Republican party in 1964, Emerson served as a delegate to the national ‘Goldwater’ convention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
“Dr. Smith” was a man who knew his own mind and frequently spoke it with great confidence. Beloved by many, respected by all, he was one of the leading figures in Wolfe City civic, church and sports life for over 50 years. His family–and much of his Wolfe City community–will miss him but will not forget him. How could they?
Selden Emerson Smith is survived by his wife Alice, his children and their spouses: Steven (Nicolette), Daniel (Lorri), Stuart (Sara), Bruce (Barbara), Mary (David), Joe (Tammie); grandchildren Brandon, Andrew, Ryan, Sarah, Melissa, Michelle, Allison, Katie, and Michael, and a growing number of great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family requests all gifts be made to the First United Methodist Church of Wolfe City, Texas.
Arrangements for the Smith funeral are being made by the Owens Funeral Home in Wolfe City. Services will be at the First United Methodist Church, 301 S. Preston St., Wolfe City on Saturday, Nov. 11 with a visitation from 12:30pm to 1:30pm, with the funeral at 2pm. The service will be conducted by Phil Clay, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Wolfe City, assisted by Fr. Stuart Smith, parish priest of Good Shepherd Anglican Church, Granbury, Texas.