Gus Smart was born and raised near Crawford, Mississippi with four siblings including a twin brother. He attended high school at B. L. Moore in Starkville, then began working as a teen in a mill for a furniture company where he became an assistant foreman. He then took on different jobs doing welding and fabrication, then laid pipe, all in and around Columbus, MS, before deciding to search for opportunities elsewhere. Smart finally landed a promising job in Marion, IN at then Foster-Forbes Glass Company. After 25 years of service, Smart retired in 2004.
Shortly following retirement, Smart was approached by former City of Marion Neighborhood Association Coordinator, Larry Richardson, about reactivating Smart’s neighborhood: the Harry Cramer Neighborhood Association. After learning more, Smart accepted the challenge and began initiating neighbor involvement. At the time, Smart explained there were bad streets, pot holes, houses needing torn down, and certain cases of drug activity. He began encouraging neighbors to report issues to him which he would pass directly on to Richardson. Once disgruntled neighbors became hopeful after problems began to resolve. Smart explained that many improvements have been made over the years largely due to the reporting system and more neighbor involvement. Today, not nearly as many complaints are being made, he reported. Smart remains President of the Harry Cramer NA, has a dedicated leadership partner in Tammy Philburn who serves as VP and performs Secretary duties, and works closely with current Neighborhood Association Coordinator, Kayla Johnson. He leads monthly meetings and coordinates other initiatives such as cleanups and block parties. Smart is now working with neighbors and the City to add a park in the neighborhood. Reflecting, he expressed hope that inactive neighbors will start to get more involved. “We are striving to improve our community and not just live in the same groove. They should make up their own minds and not be bribed with coffee and doughnuts…but just have the heart,” Smart said.
Smart has purchased land around his property from the City in order to control and maintain it. He rides a bicycle around the neighborhood, continuing good relationships, paying attention to the people and their stories, and is present when needed.
Smart is also a member of the House of Worship for All People, and sings in the church choir.
He is a widower, has three children, all of whom live in Marion, two grandsons, and one great-granddaughter.