Ralph Allon ‘Catfish’ Smith Sr.
Published 10:41 am Friday, August 25, 2023
Ralph Allon “Catfish” Smith Sr. passed away at home on August 23, 2023. Visitation will be Thursday, August 31, 2023 at First Baptist Church McComb from 5 PM to 8 PM, continuing to Friday, September 1, 2023 from 9 AM until services at 10:30 AM. Dr. David Millican and Rev. Curtis Brewer will officiate and Hartman Jones Funeral Home will be in charge of arrangements.
Ralph was born in Brookhaven, MS to Gladys Smith Stone and JC Smith.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Gladys Smith Stone; his father, JC Smith; and stepson Donald Christopher Rayborn.
He is survived by his wife, Louette Brewer Smith of McComb; 5 children, Ralph A. Smith Jr. “Mudcat” (Denise), Richard Smith, Sydney Smith (Mark), Stephany Smith, and Cameron Smith (Candice); stepdaughter, Melanie Montalvo (Frankie); his sister, Sara Nann Bryant of Dalton, Georgia; grandchildren, Gabe Wilson, Penn Wilson, Oliva Smith, Noah Smith, Watkins Smith, Mia Montalvo, Ana Montalvo, Allie Smith (Cole), Zachary Smith (Mary Beth), and Dustin Thompson.
Ralph “Catfish” Smith, one of the great offensive and defensive ends in Ole Miss history, was first a star at Brookhaven High School, where he was teammates with fellow Hall of Famer Lance Alworth. Smith earned 15 athletic letters at Brookhaven, including football, basketball, baseball and track.
With Smith and Alworth leading the way, Brookhaven won Big Eight Conference football titles in 1955 and 1957 and Smith made not only All-State, but All-South and All- American. At Ole Miss, Smith was a two-way end on Ole Miss varsity teams that won 29 games, lost 3 and tied one, and played in two Sugar Bowls, Cotton Bowl, and two National Championships.
He led Ole Miss in both receiving on offense and hits behind the line of scrimmage on defense in his senior season.
He played tight end and defensive end for three different teams in the NFL and was part of NFL Eastern Conference championship teams with Philadelphia in 1965 and Cleveland in 1968. He finished his career with the Atlanta Falcons in 1969.
Fellow Hall of Famer Jimmie McDowell nicknamed Smith “Catfish,” likening Smith to Vernon “Catfish” Smith, who had earlier starred at Georgia.
Throughout his football career, he received many achievements and awards. While attending Brookhaven High School, he participated in Mississippi All Star Football and High School All American Games (’58), All Southern and High School All American (’56, ’57, ’58), State AAA Track Championship (’57), Big Eight Basketball Championship (’55), Big Eight Football Championship (’55, ’57), All Big Eight Basketball, Football Teams (’55-’57) and received 15 Athletic letters in Football, Basketball, Baseball and Track (’54-’58). During his college career at Ole Miss (1959 – 1962), he participated in the National Football Championship (’59, 60′), Ole Miss Team of the Decade (’59), SEC Championship (’60), All SEC Teams (’60-’61), 2nd Team All-America (’61), Four College Bowl Games (’59, ’60, ’61, ’62), Drafted by Philadelphia Eagles 8th Round (NFL) in 1962, and Drafted by San Diego Chargers 12th Round (AFL) in 1962. During his professional career, he played for the Philadelphia Eagles (1963 – 1965), Cleveland Browns (1966 – 1968), Atlanta Falcons (1969), NFL Eastern Conference Championship (’65, ’68) and NFL Century Division Championship (’67, ’68).
After his NFL career, he went into the restaurant business and opened Skinny’s Restaurant and Ralph and Co.
Ralph was a longtime member and former president of Fernwood Country Club, FCC Men’s Golf Association, and National Football League Players Association.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Ole Miss Athletic Foundation at P.O. Box 1519, Oxford, MS 38655 or the MS Sports Hall of Fame at 1152 Lakeland Dr., Jackson, MS 39216.