Community remembers 'Oldest Runner in Knoxville'

At 94 years old, an inspiring member of the Knoxville running community passed away Wednesday.

Considered the "Oldest Runner in Knoxville," John Smartt proved it is never too late to do what you love.

For decades on any given weekend, you could find Smartt running at one of Knoxville's many 5K races. His friends in the running community said even though he started using a walker in his later years, he ran with pride.

"To be honest he was still beating some people. The last couple years he was using his walker but his running pace with his walker was faster than some people going as fast as they could go," said Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon Director Jason Altman. "He was an inspiration to everybody."

In 2011, Smartt told 10News he had been running competitively since high school in 1937.

"You're never too old to sweat," Smartt said in an interview.

His accomplishments in the running community earned him the honor of carrying the Olympic torch through Knoxville to the Atlanta summer games in 1996.

But as much as people knew him for the spring in his step, he always stole the show with his song.

"He would even sing solos and I remember him doing that in the last few years of his life; he was quite a singer," said his friend of 30 years, Bill Thomas.

Thomas, who works at Shannondale Assisted Living Center, knew Smartt when he was legal counsel for the organization. Smartt and his wife spent their final decade there as residents.

"If I would ask him what kind of day he was having, he would say, 'Mighty fine!' That's how I'll remember John Smart above all other things. Mighty fine," Thomas said.

During a photo shoot, when Smartt won Covenant Health's Senior Star Award, he spontaneously burst into the classic "When You're Smiling."

According to his obituary,Smartt served in the Army in World War II and was an attorney in Knoxville for many years.

He was married to Harriet Chapin Smarrt for 69 years. She passed away just six months ago.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment