After 50 years with MARTA, Atlanta native is going back to college

For most of his life, all Sam Smith knew was transit.

At 2, his father taught him how the shifts change in a car. Later, he worked summers with his father at the Wade Ford car dealership in Smyrna.

“He taught me how to work,” the 71-year-old Atlanta native said. “I knew how to operate equipment and did quick repairs.”

That work ethic led to a 50-year career with MARTA.

Smith began working as a bus operator with the company in 1966, then just a student at Morris Brown College. He later enlisted in the Marine Corps for three years before returning to the transit company and getting a promotion.

MARTA CEO Keith Parker (left), Sam Smith (center) and COO Rich Krisak pose for a photo at Smith’s bus dedication. (Credit: Alisa Jackson)

“When it came to transit, they needed someone to keep the fleet going,” he said. “I was brought in to supervise the entire (fleet). Even to this day when equipment malfunctions, I am able to make quick repairs to make sure service is delivered to riders in a timely manner.”

As for Smith’s retirement plans: He intends to keep busy.

When he’s not playing trumpet for the Metropolitan Atlanta Community Band, Smith is delivering for his son’s cheesecake company. And he manages to do some mountain climbing.

“I have a lot going on,” he said. “I’m returning to school because I’m developing the other side of my mind. It’s challenging.”

But transit still has his heart.

Smith hopes an eventual degree in organizational leadership management from Morris Brown will allow him to contract his skills to other transit agencies who need his help.

Smith said some of his retired friends have lost their ability to function because they’re not active. He encouraged others to “learn how to improve your skill.”

“I feel like I’m 21 all over again,” he said.

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