Born: October 21, 1808, Boston, Massachusetts.
Died: November 16, 1895, Boston, Massachusetts.
Buried: Newton Cemetery, Newton, Massachusetts.
Smith was the son of Samuel Smith and Sarah Bryant, and husband of Mary White.
Smith attended Harvard University and Andover Theological Seminary.
He entered the Baptist ministry in 1832, and the same year became editor of Baptist Missionary Magazine. He also contributed to the Encyclopedia Americana.
From 1834–42, he pastored at Waterville, Maine, and was Professor of Modern Languages at Waterville College.
In 1842, he moved to Newton, Massachusetts, staying until he became editor of the publications of the Baptist Missionary Union in 1854.
The secular world best remembers Smith as the author of My Country ’Tis of Thee.
Smith and Oliver Wendell Holmes were classmates at Harvard. For the 1829 class reunion, Holmes wrote:
There’s a nice youngster of excellent pith,
Fate tried to conceal him by naming him Smith;
But he shouted a song for the brave and the free,
Just read on his medal,
On Smith’s 80th birthday, Holmes sent him the following:
Full many a poet’s labored lines
A century’s creeping waves shall hide—
The verse a people’s love enshrines
Stands like a rock that breasts the tide.
Time wrecks the proudest piles we raise,
The towers, the domes, the temples fall.
The fortress crumbles and decays—
One breath of song outlasts them all.