M. Scott Morris: Remembering a gentleman of Tupelo

I said nasty words in the office on Wednesday, moments after learning Tupelo’s Bruce Smith was killed in a car accident.
Ever since getting the sad news, I’ve pictured Bruce’s smiling face and remembered that I owe him something.
I had a great time interviewing him for a 2009 story. He was genuinely entertained by life, and he was a gentleman well-versed in making others feel comfortable, welcome and important.
When the story ran, an editor had changed the headline to identify him as the leader of Tupelo Symphony Orchestra.
With his years on the symphony’s board of directors, a case could be made that he was “a” TSO leader, though he didn’t appreciate being called “the” leader.
But he laughed it off when I called to apologize, and he was highly complimentary of the story.
I sometimes find it difficult to take compliments, but Bruce had an effusive, heartfelt quality. He could lift people up, even if they weren’t sure they wanted to be lifted up.
The Bruce I knew was always a good guy, and by always, I mean every time I saw him over the past 15 or so years.
Wait.
There was that one incident.
He used to write reviews of symphony concerts for the Mighty Daily Journal. An editor trimmed a review and Bruce wasn’t happy about it.
It’s easy to give him a pass because I’ve dealt with plenty of editors, and they’re a bunch of CONTENT DELETED.
About four months ago, Bruce stepped in and took my side after I’d gotten hammered by people online.
Thomas Wells and I were on the streets during the April tornado. I caught video of the swirling mass as it ripped through town, and later wrote about what it was like to witness a real, live twister.
I mentioned that we’d hid under a bridge, and a few people got angry, saying that’s exactly where you shouldn’t hide. One wrote, “I’d like to hit them in the mouth.”
Bruce was my only online defender:
“This is a wonderful piece of writing – vivid, gripping, even poetic in the presence of a great cataclysm of Nature. If Scott Morris and Thomas Wells had to shelter under a bridge for Scott to produce this stirring account, it was worth it.”
I don’t know if I agree with him. In hindsight, what we did seems awfully stupid.
But I’ve been carrying a “Thank You” for Bruce that I’d meant to deliver the next time we met.
Now I have a picture of his smiling face popping into my mind. It happens again and again, too many times to count, and it’s always followed by a lingering “Thank You.”
I hate that Bruce died. I hate it for his family. I hate it for his many friends.
But I like the idea of spending my days with a pocketful of gratitude for a good man.
M. SCOTT MORRIS is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at or (662) 678-1589 scott.morris@journalinc.com.

  • Ben Wiseman

    What wonder we have at how Bruce has touched all of our lives. The absence that will be present from this time on will affect us deeply. I know that I personally will never have the same joy of friendship and fulfillment with anyone else as when enjoying his conversation and company. In all of my years of associating with people in the musical arenas and the intellectual areas of medicine and science I have never found anyone that even begin to come close to matching his intelligence and abilities. It has caused a huge void in my heart to know that I will never be able to experience the same stimulation of discussion of all areas of human interest. Everyone who knows Bruce knows that he is a good and gentle spirit who has impacted all of their lives with his positive nature and selflessness. He is an irreplaceable presence for all of us. My latest discussions with him over the last several months has been about particle physics and deep space astronomy. We had the brilliant conclusions that we are all simply mathematical equations that interact. We would say that instead of our destinies being written in the stars they were written in these mathematical equations penned by a Creator of the cosmos that we will never understand. The fact is that we will always be a part of his life and he will always be a part of our lives through those interactions. Obviously the mystery of why this terrible tragedy has occurred will forever be something that haunts us and evades our understanding. Bruce lived a good life with an abundance of compassion and caring for all of those that he met. His incredible intelligence was extended to anyone that would take the time to listen. I never ceased to be amazed at his ability to extemporaneously talk for hours on any subject without advance preparation. My son Matthew Wiseman was incredibly impressed by Bruce’s knowledge of classical music. This is because my son was pursuing his Masters degree in guitar performance. He could not even begin to keep up with Bruce’s knowledge that Bruce attained from a lifetime of self-study. Bruce also had the incredible ability to be an actor or performer with his mimicking of numerous voice styles. He was constantly humorous and had an ever present sense of laughter and delight. There were many times that he pulled me through periods of serious negative thinking. His positive attitude about life and about the correct disposition and outlook was something that was able to boost the spirits of many people. One of the things that I discovered in my many phone conversations with Bruce was his great love for sailing. Every year on my birthday he would give me a picture of a sailing ship as if to remind me to live life according to what he had when he lived in New Orleans and when he sailed around the Seattle area. Despite this he stayed rooted in his home area of Ripley and Tupelo Mississippi. He was strongly bound to his family plantation at Geeville. His cultural and family background was extremely important to him. He was the true definition of a Southern gentleman. Bruce is the only brother that I will ever have, not because we had the same father but that we had a commonality in all that we thought was important. He would frequently relate to me how proud he was of his lineage continuing on through Robert Bruce Smith, V. Although my friend Bruce will never be able to be replaced because of his uniqueness as an individual, what he has done in the lives of all that he has touched will endure. God will bless the memory of this forever.