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Gospel musician Michael Whitaker Smith, was born October 7, 1957, in Kenova and was educated at Ceredo-Kenova High School. He briefly attended Marshall University before moving to Nashville to pursue a music career. He wrote songs for Paragon-Benson Publishing Company before recording his first album, The Michael W. Smith Project, in 1983.

His 1990 song ‘‘Place in this World’’ hit the gospel music top 10, and he was named New Artist of the Year at the American Music Awards in 1992. In 1992, he received an honorary doctorate of music degree from Alderson Broaddus College. Smith founded Rocketown Ministries in 1994 and, two years later, Rocketown Records. In 1998, the contemporary Christian music magazine CCM named Smith’s ‘‘Friends’’ the number-one song of all time. In 2001, Smith performed at the presidential inaugural prayer service and at the National Day of Prayer. In 2002, he provided the musical score for the motion picture Joshua. He also appeared in the movie The Second Chance in 2006.

In 2018, he released two albums a week apart: A Million Lights, a pop album, and Surrounded, his first live Christian album in a decade. He’s since released two more live albums: Awaken: The Surrounded Experience (2019) and Worship Forever (2021).

The singer, songwriter, and producer has written more than a dozen books and launched the Nurturing Steps series with VeggieTales co-creator Mike Nawrocki. Smith has been a spokesperson for Compassion International and active in Billy Graham Crusades and Samaritan’s Purse, a ministry headed by Graham’s son, Franklin. In 2018, Smith performed “Just As I Am” at Billy Graham’s funeral and “Friends” at the state funeral for former President George H. W. Bush.

As of 2023, Smith has recorded 25 albums. He has had 35 number-one songs and five platinum albums. He has won the Nashville Music Award for pop album, ASCAP’s Golden Note Award, three Grammy Awards (and earned another 11 nominations), and 40 Dove Awards. He became a Distinguished West Virginian in 2003. He was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2008 and into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2018.

This Article was written by Russ Barbour

Last Revised on August 18, 2023


Cite This Article

Barbour, Russ "Michael W. Smith." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 18 August 2023. Web. 23 May 2024.

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