Two foundations of NASCAR coverage for the Southern Standard passed away this week, one a well-known lawyer, the other a popular civic leader and nurseryman.
Bernard K. Smith, 75, and Frank Rice, 72, both passed away Friday – the men leading contributor’s for the Southern Standard’s Victory Lane magazine that thrived during the 1990s. In addition to partnering with Rice for coverage of numerous NASCAR events ranging in venues from Bristol to Daytona, Smith also penned his racing column, Down in the Pits for many years – the column becoming a staple of Standard sports coverage for a decade.
For Smith, his knowledge of racing came from hands-on work behind the wheel of a race car. Smith raced at an early age. Driving under his racing name, Johnny Jack, he was known to drive the black #1.
While Smith hammered out his weekly columns and provided coverage from numerous tracks, Rice was a dedicated traveler, visiting most Winston Cup tracks east of the Mississippi during his time with the Southern Standard. Rice, who was a licensed airplane pilot, often flew his own plane to tracks.
“Bernard and Frank made a great team, covering the great American sport,” said Southern Standard Publisher Patricia Zechman. “They were good friends with a number of NASCAR’s true legends and brought a keen insight to this Southern-born sport.”
Zechman said both were praised by readers of the Standard, making NASCAR coverage an area of emphasis when the pair were contributing to the paper.
“Our readers shared their enthusiasm and relayed it often,” Zechman noted. “This unique duo made the sports pages of the Standard better for their efforts.”
Along with his love of racing, Smith was also an accomplished football star. He was an all-state quarterback for McMinnville City High, leading his squad to a state championship before graduating in 1958. He would go on to graduate college with a degree in Law from the University of Tennessee. He served his country in the U.S. Army in military intelligence for two years before heading into private law practice. He practiced for 42 years, holding his law license to the time of his death.
“He was dedicated to his work and his clients,” said Connie Turner, his secretary for 36 years, noting his office was located on Morford Street for many years during his time in private practice. “He practiced all kinds of law but he especially loved criminal law. He loved being in the courtroom.”
Smith also made a pair of unsuccessful bids into politics, falling just short in his runs for state senator and district attorney.
His racing partner; however, was successful in his runs for office as Rice was elected on separate occasions to the county commission. In one race, he ended up deadlocked in a tie with his opponent and was voted into office after the county commission broke the tie. He served 12 years in Warren County government.
Rice was most noted in his time as a commissioner for his work in negotiations that helped bring the Bridgestone plant to Morrison. Most recently, he was named to the Tennessee 911 Hall of Honor in 2014 or his work on the Warren County 911 Board. He was the owner of his own nursery business for over 40 years.
“Frank always had the county in mind,” said former County Executive Harry Dunn who serve at the county helm while Rice was a county commissioner. “He always wanted to bring more jobs to Warren County. He served the county well.”
Service information for Mr. Smith is on page 2. Arrangements for Mr. Rice were incomplete at press-time. High Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements for both services.