Lieutenant John Wesley Smith, III

Lieutenant John Wesley Smith, III

Metro Nashville Police Department, Tennessee

End of Watch Wednesday, May 14, 1980

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John Wesley Smith, III

Lieutenant Smith was killed in an automobile accident while responding to an officer needs assistance call that was broadcast over the police radio shortly after midnight. He was travelling on Clarksville Highway when his patrol car collided with a pickup truck.

Lieutenant Smith had been with the agency for 17 years and was survived by his wife and three sons.


  • Age 39
  • Tour 17 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Automobile crash

Most Recent Reflection

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The 40th Anniversary of Lt. John Wesley Smith III line of duty death.

Lt. Smith was a second-generation Nashville Police Officer. In 1948 his father was one of the first black officers to join the force.

His son, Sgt. Gary Smith, join the police dept. in 1996, becoming a third-generation Nashville Police Officer. Another son, John Wesley Smith IV, has worked for the Davidson County Sheriff’s Dept for several decades. A nephew, Sgt Jimmy Smith, also serves with MNPD.

“Big John” was 39 years old and a 17 year veteran of the department.

Lt. Smith was one of the most well-thought-of officers in the department’s history. Black officers called Lt. Smith “The Godfather.”

“Lest We Forget”

Retired Sgt Vernon Teague

May 15, 2020

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