Oce Smith was honored last week in the House of Delegates. Front left is Speaker Rick Thompson, and House Clerk Greg Gray is front right. (Courtesy photo)

CHARLESTON –- The House of Delegates last week honored retiring Sergeant-At-Arms Oce Smith, who surprised members and colleagues after a long health-related absence with a visit to the Chamber.

"It was a great treat to have Sergeant-At-Arms Smith back with us today," House Speaker Rick Thompson said. "He brings a great deal of experience and wit to the House of Delegates and is truly an institution here at the Statehouse."

Smith was elected Sergeant-at-Arms of the House on Jan. 31, 1967, to fill a vacancy in that office created by a resignation. He became the 43rd Sergeant-at-Arms, and has held that position for 45 years.

The Speaker, House Majority Leader Brent Boggs and House Majority Whip Mike Caputo made arrangements with the Marion County Rescue Squad, Arbors Nursing Home and other community leaders for Smith to travel by ambulance to Charleston from Marion County, where both Smith and Caputo live.

"Health problems have kept Oce away from us for the past few years, and we have missed him very much," said Caputo, who used to occasionally travel to and from Charleston with Smith. "He is respected and loved both here in the Legislature and at home."

Through the passage of House Resolution 36 today, Smith was given the title of Sergeant-At-Arms Emeritus. Thompson presented Smith the a legislative pin and medal, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin awarded him a Distinguished West Virginian certificate.

During his years in the House, Smith has gotten to know every major political candidate in West Virginia, as well as several national figures. He even traveled the state with the Kennedy family in 1960.

"Oce's fascination with the world of politics, at the national, state and local levels, has only been matched by his colorful character and love of recounting the thousands of stories that make up the fabric of his life," the resolution states. "He knows no stranger, and usually upon meeting anyone for the first time, he will meticulously pull from his memory some remote story or family or personal connection relevant to the situation."

Boggs said he is pleased the House leadership was able to arrange the visit.

"Oce's experience with politics and the legislative process spans five decades, and he has made the most of it, connecting personally with every person he has met along the way," Boggs noted. "We have all benefitted from his service here, and his retirement is a great loss to the House."

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