Dale and Mavis Smith moved to Kentucky from East Tennessee 57 years ago. They came to start a feed business—one that was unique to the area at the time. Before the move, Smith purchased a large feed mill he towed around from farm to farm in the back of his truck.
“We went to them, to the bigger farmers,” Smith said, “and we could grind around 2,400 pounds of feed with all the necessary minerals in about 20 minutes.” Each week, Smith would run his route, visiting the big farms in a different Central Kentucky county each day.
“There was nothing like that in Kentucky at the time; so, I went up to Pennsylvania to learn how, and then I just started doing it.”
The Smiths live in Cave City, outside of Glasgow, Kentucky. Over the nearly six decades they’ve spent in Barren County, the couple has owned three family businesses. It began with the feed business. Several years later they became distributors for the Ashland Oil Company. Then, in the early 1980’s, they opened a machining shop. I asked Mr. Smith what was similar about the three business ventures. He told me, “They weren’t! That’s the adventure. You get to learn all of this stuff.”
When talking to Smith, he made it clear right away that he’s an eager and humble student: “I didn’t go into each business and tell people what to do, how their line of work should be done. Instead, I kept my ears open, and I learned a lot.”
Smith also kept his ears open to hear from the Lord. Smith considers his relationship with God to be central to everything he does in business: “In every decision, you first talk it over with God. Then, you do the best you can and leave the rest up to him.”
Mr. Dale Smith recently celebrated his eighty-fourth birthday. At this point in his life, Smith has much to pass along to others. But in a recent conversation, he couldn’t stop talking about those who had first poured into him. He reflected on the role of his pastors at Glasgow Baptist Church in his discipleship. The Smiths have been members there since they moved to Kentucky.
He remembers, too, an evangelist whose vision encouraged him to begin supporting Christian seminary education. But one individual who stood out particularly in Mr. Smith’s mind was Clark Madison:
“One day I was approached by an older Christian gentleman; he was one of the godliest men I knew, but we were competitors in the machining business in the same town. We decided to become partners.”
Madison-Smith Machine and Tool Company, which the two founded in 1983, began in a 4,000-square-foot facility, and it has earned a stellar reputation delivering industrial services such as machining, welding, and rigging for more than thirty years. “We started with a little machine shop then we put in a factory and then we moved factories,” Smith told me. The company now boasts a 63,000-square-foot, cutting edge facility.
Smith’s partnership with Clark Madison was a great grace, and now he and Mrs. Smith are eager to pass on the same gracious legacy to others. The Smiths first became supporters of Southern Seminary in 2013 after they sold the machine and tool business. They became foundation members in 2015. Part of their eager support stems from the trust the Smith’s have in Southern’s leadership, beginning with R. Albert Mohler Jr. Smith described Mohler as humble, gracious, and committed to leaving a trustworthy legacy for the next generation.
“We’re convinced Dr. Mohler has the seminary on the right track,” he said.
The love they have for Southern is something the Smiths share together.
“The more you get to know everyone at the seminary, the more you love them,” Smith said, “We love those people to death up there.”