American Veteran 01

Hatler Hilton Smith

April 3, 1934 ~ November 21, 2021 (age 87)
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Hatler Hilton Smith, age 87, of Cornelia, GA passed from this life on Sunday, November 21, 2021. 

Born in LaFollette, Tennessee, on April 4, 1934, he was the son of the late Hatler Payne Smith and Mildred Hilton Smith. Hilton graduated from Emory University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy in 1956; and received his Master’s of Education from Emory in 1960. Hilton earned his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University in 1984. 

He served as an intelligence officer in the United States Air Force with the 78th Tactical Fighter Squadron (and Hilton always said if he told us any more, he’d have to shoot us).

Hilton was a career educator, beginning as a high school history teacher in Atlanta. He soon was giving in-service demonstrations on how to conduct history simulations to teachers in the Atlanta area.  Always on the cutting edge of educational ideas and trends with his eyes firmly on student empowerment, Hilton was instrumental in the development of the Downtown Learning Center, an alternative high school program with an emphasis on inquiry-based learning for at-risk youth. This experience was excellent preparation for the work that most fully enveloped his passion for teaching and learning: his years-long involvement with Foxfire. He spearheaded the Foxfire Program for Teachers which led to the formation of Foxfire Teacher Network groups in many states as well as  abroad. He continued to teach the Foxfire Approach to prospective teachers as part of his work at Piedmont College where he taught many courses and served as chair of secondary education for quite a number of  years.  His retirement in 2019 concluded 60 years dedicated to education.  It was Hilton’s firm belief that only through an educated citizenry would our democracy continue to grow and flourish. 

No obituary for Hilton Smith would be complete without mention of his love for music. He was a jazz aficionado who played both bass and trumpet in his youth.  He often reminisced about his days as a member of the “Singers and Swingers”. His collection of albums attests to his lifelong love of music, particularly jazz.   

Hilton is survived by his wife, Sara Alice Tucker, son, Mark Hilton Smith and wife, Gina Schmidt Smith of Alpharetta; daughter, Deidre Ann deLaughter of Athens; son, Betrand Howard Smith and wife, Kymberly Smith of Helen; stepson, Jason Shane Rodgers and wife, Ji Hye Rodgers  of Seoul, South Korea; stepson, Michael Blair Rodgers and wife, Danielle Rodgers of Denver, Colorado; and stepdaughter, Jennifer Quillin Stille and husband, Jeremy Stille of Cornelia. 

Hilton and Sara are blessed with sixteen grandchildren: 

Anthony Smith, Lauren Kilbourn, Emily Kilbourn Scott, Charlotte Kilbourn Jordan, Anna Marie Smith, Charles Hilton Smith, Emma Grace Smith, Mary Shannon Smith, Emerson Hilton Rodgers, Oliver William Rodgers, Elliott Hudson Rodgers, Owen Thomas Rodgers, Eleanor Holland Rodgers, Sawyer Charles Stille, Sutton Ryan Stille and great-granddaughter, Bailey Allen Smith. 

At Hilton’s request, “a convivial gathering of family, friends and former students” will be held on Sunday, November 28, 2021, at the family residence from 2-5 PM. Please honor Hilton’s dedication to health and long living by observing all social distancing guidelines for the prevention of Covid 19.  For those unable to attend on Sunday, there will be another celebration of Hilton’s life around his birthday in the spring. 

For those wishing to contribute in Hilton’s memory, please make a donation to The Foxfire Fund: https://www.Foxfire.Org,  Donate | Foxfire, or PO Box 541, Mountain City, Georgia 30562 USA

An online guest registry is available for the Smith family at

Arrangements by Hillside Memorial Chapel, Clarkesville, Georgia. (706) 754-6256


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November 28, 2021

2:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Smith Family Residence
Hillcrest Heights
Cornelia, GA 30531

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