Family, colleagues remember DEA agent

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 17, 2010

NATCHEZ — A fallen Marine was honored Wednesday with three fired volleys, and more than 30 Drug Enforcement Administration agents from Cincinnati wore black patches over their badges.

DEA Special Agent Jerrel Rex Smith, Jr., 47, of Natchez, was buried at the Natchez National Cemetery. Rex Smith’s father, Jerrel Rex Smith Sr., who was holding an American flag that had been given to him by the honor guard, quoted Matthew 5:9 when describing his son.

“Blessed be the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God,” Smith said. “That is what he was — a peacemaker.”

Rex Smith was working from the DEA field office in Cincinnati following his graduation from the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration Academy in Quantico, Va. Resident Agent in Charge Russell E. Neville said Rex Smith will be missed.

“The office was pretty distraught last week when we found out about his passing,” Neville said. “It will take a while to heal.”

Neville said Rex Smith was a very dedicated agent.

“He was always willing to help, no matter what time of the day it was,” Neville said. “He was a stand up guy.

“Rex was dedicated to serving the public and improving the quality of life for the average citizen.”

During Rex’s 11 years, Neville said he did an excellent job on some complex investigations.

“He took a lot of drugs off the street and put a lot of people in jail,” Neville said. “Rex was a strong leader, and when he led, he was always leading from the forefront.”

Smith said his son was the type of man who would always push forward and did the best he could.

“He may have stumbled sometimes,” Smith said. “But he always got back up, and he’d be a better man when he did.”

Rex Smith’s death came as a shock to the family, Smith said.

“This was all of a sudden,” Smith said. “He only had two heart valves, and they must have given out, probably because of his activity.

“Nobody had picked up on it.”

In life, Rex Smith always pushed to be more in the lives of those around him.

“Rex was a good friend of mine and always had a lot of friends,” Neville said.

Smith said that his son was special.

“He was a true friend and supporter, and I could depend on him,” Smith said. “He was there for me during my low points too, like he was for others.”

Even as far back as his high school days, Rex Smith had been liked, Smith said.

“He always provided support to anyone who needed it, even back in his high school days,” Smith said. “And he had been well liked all the way through his school days.”

Rex Smith, who wasn’t the biggest athlete, managed to be an all-district football player, Smith said.

“He was able to do that because he put everything he had into it — and into everything he did,” Smith said.

The U.S. Marine Corps had always been important to him.

“He loved the Marines,” Smith said. “He used to sit on the couch and get all into the Marine movies.”

Rex Smith was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 1986 with the rank of Lance Corporal. He enlisted in the Marines after he graduated from high school in 1981.

Rex Smith is survived by his father and mother, Sandra Beth Harper Smith, who live in Natchez.

Other survivors include one sister, Melanie Long and husband, Dr. Jeffery Long, of Manhattan, Kan., one brother, Arthur Smith and wife, Carrie, of Paris, Tenn.; two nieces, Madison Long and Alyson Smith; two nephews, Matthew Long and Colin Smith; maternal grandmother, Loyce Harper of Vidalia; and a number of uncles, aunts and cousins.