Rutland High teacher found slain in Virginia

A Bibb County high school teacher who was shot and killed over the weekend in southeast Virginia had traveled there to visit his two children, his former wife said Monday.

Arthur W. Smith Jr., 40, of Macon, an English teacher at Rutland High, died of gunshot wounds Saturday night in Portsmouth, Va.

Police there said they were dispatched to a “shots fired” call shortly before 10:30 p.m. and found Smith dead inside a car on a street just across Hampton Roads Bay from Norfolk. A Portsmouth police spokesman said Monday that detectives were investigating the case as a homicide.

Smith’s body was found about 10 miles east of his former residence in Portsmouth.

Smith had returned to his native Macon several months ago and was teaching literature to ninth-graders, Rutland principal Gail Gilbert said. Monday at the school, the flag flew at half staff and students observed a moment of silence in Smith’s honor.

“He joined us after the year started last year,” Gilbert said. “He wanted to see students succeed. I was telling the students he was working on some posters, ‘Never Give Up.’ He wanted those students to continue on with their studies and realize their dream to graduate.”

Smith, who had been an Army officer, began teaching about 10 years ago in North Carolina, his ex-wife Karen Wilson-Smith said. He had also taught in Virginia.

“He just liked knowledge, acquiring knowledge and passing it on. He liked to read and watch the History Channel,” Wilson-Smith said. “He was just always trying to learn new things.”

She said her ex-husband also taught reading and that he often quoted the widely circulated inspirational poem “Don’t Quit,” which includes the lines:

“Life is queer with its twists and turns, as every one of us sometimes learns. And many a failure turns about, when he might have won had he stuck it out.”

Wilson-Smith said she divorced Smith about a year ago after 17 years of marriage.

Gilbert said Smith, whom she called a “dedicated” teacher, had been living with his parents in Macon and that he taught three classes at the school.

“It’s extremely regrettable,” Gilbert said. “We’ve had counselors here and social workers and psychologists on hand for our students, because obviously word travels quickly and we wanted to be able to give them first-hand information, and also give them an opportunity to have any grief counseling if need be.”

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.