Robert Earl Smith

May 12, 1946 ~ May 1, 2021 (age 74)


“Let everything that has breath praise the lord.” Psalms 150 1-6.

Dr. Robert Earl Smith, PhD., 74, of Granger, Indiana passed away on Saturday, May 1, 2021 at Memorial Hospital from complications of Chronic Leukemia. Robert was born May 12, 1946 in Sunflower, Mississippi to Bessie Smith Knighten-Spears and Sam Milsap. 

Robert graduated from Scott High School in Toledo, Ohio in 1965. He believed that education was the way to a better and sustainable life. On May 11, 1985 he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Individualized Studies from Lourdes College, Sylvania, Ohio. He also earned several university and professional certificates. Robert went on to earn the highest academic level, a Doctor of Philosophy in Theological and Biblical Leadership from Kingsbridge University on July 19, 2010.  

Robert believed in servant leadership in the communities where he lived. He was inducted into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. at the University of Toledo in the Fall of 1968.  He was honored by the Alphas in December of 2018 for 50 years of active service. Robert assisted through fundraising for nonprofits, educating youth and encouraging senior citizens to remain physically active and stay involved in their community.  At the time of his passing, Robert was the President of the NAACP - South Bend Chapter; President of the Martin Luther King Jr., Senior Men’s Club; an Executive Board member of 100 Black Men of Greater South Bend where he was he was instrumental in creating and implementing new programs for youth such as the Innovative Thinkers Program for 100 Black Men; a Leader in Faith in Michiana; a member of the South Bend City Council Committee: “Not in Our Community Synthetic Drugs;” a member of The Partnership for a Drug-Free St. Joseph County (PEPSA);  Chairman of Committee to relocate Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard; he participated in the annual Martin Luther King Holiday Celebration and a past President of the South Bend National Pan Hellenic Council. Robert enjoyed golf and was an active member of Par Putters Golf Club.

Robert was a God-fearing man! He became a Deacon on January 27, 1991 at Second Calvary Missionary Baptist in Cleveland, Ohio.  At the time of his passing, he was a member of Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church where he taught Sunday School, served as Chairman of the Deacon board and Church Treasurer.  Prior to moving to the Michiana area, Dr. Smith worked for Toledo Edison at their Davis Besse Nuclear Power Plant for over 20 years. He has developed numerous procedures and policies concerned with data security, computer operations and assisted the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission with computer regulations. Dr. Smith retired from American Electric Power (AEP) in 2010 following 23 years of service. Throughout his professional career, he held many leadership positions including Information Technology Manager, Security Manager, and Special Projects Director to name a few.

Robert is survived by his high school sweetheart and wife of 52 years, Sheila M. Gentry; they were married on November 9, 1968. He is also survived by daughters Kimberly Smith of Niles Michigan and Lori Smith-Ryan (and her husband Lamont) and their children Evan, Shalae, and Sadir of Decatur, Georgia.  He leaves behind three siblings, Jessye Vance, Reverend Willie Knighten Sr. pastor of Northwest Missionary Baptist Church of Toledo Ohio ( and his wife Laverne) of Toledo and Margaret Manning (and her husband Dr. Peter Manning, MD) of Singapore. 

Dr. Smith encouraged youth to pursue higher education and become leaders in the community.  Robert was instrumental in guiding his grandchildren through their academic and spiritual life. He was proud to see his granddaughter receive a bachelor’s degree in 3 ½ years and his grandson excel academically and athletically in high school.  His direction and wisdom will truly be missed.

The viewing is from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Thursday with the formal wake from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in Cobb Funeral Home.
The funeral service is 11:00 a.m. Friday at Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church.
In lieu of flowers please make contributions to one of the following scholarship funds that Dr. Smith endorsed.

Please include in the memo “in loving memory of Dr. Robert Earl Smith.”

In lieu of flowers the family is requesting to send donations to:

100 Black Men of Greater South Bend

2043 South Bend Ave

PMB 345 South Bend, IN 46637

Don Wycliff President


Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. South Bend Chapter


Greater St. John Missionary Baptist

101 N Adams St.

South Bend, IN 46628


MLK Senior Men’s club – Community Programs

P.O. Box 584

South Bend, IN 46601


Par Putters Golf Club of South Bend.

52566 Heatherfield Dr.



Social distancing and masks will be required upon arrival.  


To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Robert Earl Smith, please visit our floral store.


May 6, 2021

3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Cobb Funeral Home
3525 S. Michigan Street
South Bend, IN 46614

Gathering of Family and Friends
May 6, 2021

6:00 PM
Cobb Funeral Home
3525 S. Michigan Street
South Bend, IN 46614

Funeral Service
May 7, 2021

11:00 AM
Greater St. John Baptist Church
101 N. Adams St.
South Bend, IN 46601

Please note
There will be a viewing (body lies in state) from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. followed by the formal visitation starting at 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 6th.
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