WEAVER, Ala. (WIAT) — First responders in Calhoun County are remembering a fallen Baldwin County sheriff’s deputy who previously served several public safety agencies in east Alabama.
BCSO Deputy Bill Smith died at a hospital late Sunday evening after answering a call to help swimmers in distress.
Before Smith moved to the Gulf Coast, he was the volunteer fire chief in Weaver and a deputy for the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.
“He died doing what he enjoyed. Saving people,” said Wayne Willis, the current mayor of Weaver and Smith’s close friend for 30 years.
Willis met Smith early on in his career and their bond grew as the two served in neighboring agencies.
“He lived here in Weaver and our sons were growing up together and we went to all the same t-ball and wrestling and football, but Bill was one of these people that he would do anything for anybody at any time,” Wills said.
Friends described Smith as someone who would always give 110%, expecting the same from those around him.
“He was just one of these people that was so full of energy and a passion for public safety. A quality guy,” said Willis.
While Smith had spent the past seven or eight years in south Alabama, he was raised in the Alexandria area of Calhoun County.
Smith was a full-time firefighter in Dekalb County, Georgia and made the commute weekly. He still found time to serve as a volunteer chief for his hometown in Alabama. Smith was Weaver’s fire chief for about 18 years.
“It was basically just a group of volunteers that had a desire to help, but they did not have the training or the experience, and that is the one thing that Bill brought to the table. He took a young group of volunteers and molded them and trained them,” Willis said.
One of the men Smith trained has now followed in his footsteps as Weaver’s volunteer fire chief.
“When we were younger we were always dubbed as “Bill’s Boys” and that is a title that some of us are proud to wear to this day and are proud to serve the communities that we are in because of him,” said Brian Bunn, the current chief of the Weaver Volunteer Fire Department.
Bunn still wears the badge that Smith gave him when he left the post.
“We would not be in the positions we are in our careers today if it was not for him and the impact he had on us,” Bunn said.
After Smith retired from the fire service, he continued his public safety career as a deputy for the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.
“A lot of times, a lot of people in their second career maybe somebody long in the tooth, you might say, might not be as much of a go-getter, but that wasn’t so. Bill Smith would make those young guys jealous, he would outdo them and he would push them,” said Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade.
Wade said Smith served as a deputy for about three years and then transferred to Baldwin County.
Former colleagues in east Alabama stayed in touch and would often pay him a visit during trips to the coast.
“One of them said he wished he could trade places with Bill, that is how much they loved him,” said Wade.
Wade and others are now thinking of Smith’s family and keeping them in prayer. Smith planned to retire later this year, friends said.
“There is no way to replace him, but I pray that God shows his family what a true gem he was to this world. He’s left a good legacy, something that they can really be proud of,” said Wade.
It’s common for first responders to run towards danger, but colleagues said Smith was never one to shy away from an opportunity to help someone in need.
“I truly believe if Bill Smith knew the outcome and it happened again today, he would still go in that water, because he cared about others,” Wade said.
Funeral arrangements for Smith were still in the works late Monday. It’s unclear if he’ll be laid to rest in south Alabama or back home near Alexandria.
“To find somebody that was willing to give their own life to save someone else’s and not hesitate, that is Bill Smith in a nutshell,” said Bunn.