A renaissance man driven by divine desire and his mother’s activist influence, Reverend Ray Smith believes that community empowerment starts from within. As a Hattiesburg native, theologian, educator, and world traveler, Reverend Smith’s unique perspective enables him to create and cast a vision for both the global and local communities.

After he graduated from Hattiesburg High School in 1976, Reverend Smith worked for years as a construction worker and truck driver. A trucking accident opened the door for Reverend Smith to go back to school, and he attended both seminary and William Carey University simultaneously. In 1997, Reverend Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in theology from the Baptist Seminary, and in 1998, we earned a bachelor’s degree in business from William Carey University. Hungry to keep learning, Reverend Smith went on to earn his Master’s Degree in Education in 2003.

“I wanted to teach because I knew that I could touch and change lives in the classroom,” Reverend Smith said. “When I taught school, I was really touched by a lot of the issues that kids had.” Reverend Smith taught in the Hattiesburg school district for 15 years; he then taught GED classes to incarcerated people. After returning to work in Hattiesburg Schools, he traveled overseas and worked on counter-IED systems in Iraq and Kuwait with the Computer Science Corporation. “Over the course of my life, however, I’ve found that no matter what my work is, I really just want to follow in my mother’s footsteps and help people realize their potential and empower one another.”

Reverend Smith’s mother, Marian A. Hand, was a community activist with a heart for the discouraged, disenfranchised, and forgotten. Her contagious personality and driven spirit continue to define and inspire the foundation’s ongoing efforts toward community fellowship and healing. “Mom, man, she was really something. She was loved by everybody she came in contact with. She had this gift of connecting with people, all ages and races,” Reverend Smith said. “She communicated well with people from all walks of life. Dynamic personality. People were just drawn to her. I consider that a major gift.”

In Marian Hand’s spirit and under Reverend Smith’s leadership, the Ray-E Foundation continues to invest in and celebrate the local community through its programs, events, and fellowship initiatives.


“I note the obvious differences
Between each sort and type,
But we are more alike, my friends,
Than we are unalike.”