Samuel Francis Smith, (October 21, 1808?November 16, 1895), Baptist minister, journalist and author, is best known for having written the lyrics to "My Country, 'Tis of Thee", which he entitled America.
Samuel Francis Smith was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 21, 1808, and his earliest education was at the Eliot School. After graduating from Boston Latin School in 1825, Smith attended Harvard from 1825 to 1829, and was a classmate of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.. He did translations from various foreign languages into English and wrote magazine and newspaper articles to raise funds for his tuition. He received many honors on his graduation in 1829, and at first went into journalism before deciding to become a minister, which led to his beginning his studies at the Andover Theological Seminary in Andover, Massachusetts beginning in 1830.
Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee' in 1831, His friend, Lowell Mason had asked him to translate the lyrics in some German school songbooks or to write new lyrics. One melody in particular caught his attention. The German lyrics were a German patriotic hymn of some sort. Instead of translating it, Smith decided to write an American patriotic hymn, so he sat down and in thirty minutes had written My Country, 'Tis of Thee, to go along with the melody. He had never heard the tune before and had no idea of its derivation or associations with the British national anthem, God Save the Queen.
Smith gave Mason the lyrics he had written and the song was first performed in public on July 4, 1831, at a children's Independence Day celebration at Park Street Church in Boston. The song, titled 'America', was first published by Lowell Mason in The Choir in 1832.
The house Smith lived in is now a Phillips Academy dormitory called America House, or A-House for short.
 Early career
After graduating from Andover Theological in 1834, Smith worked in Boston editing the Baptist Missionary Magazine before going to Maine. His ordination as a Baptist minister was on February 12, 1834, in Waterville, Maine, where in addition to his ministry, he served as Professor of Modern Languages at Waterville College. In 1842, he left Waterville to go to Newton, Massachusetts.
In Newton, Smith became editor of the Christian Review and other publications of the Baptist Missionary Union (BMU). He continued his ministry as well, becoming pastor of the First Baptist Church in Newton in the village of Newton Centre. In Newton, Smith bought a house at 1181 Centre Street which had been built in 1836 and added on to in 1842. After twelve years as pastor of the Newton Centre church, he became editorial secretary of the BMU and served there for fifteen years. During the years 1875?1880, he made many trips to Europe, Turkey, the Indian Empire as well as Ceylon and Burma to visit missionary outposts.
On September 16, 1834, Smith married Mary White Smith, whose maiden name was Smith. They had six children. Smith was foster father for four years to teenager Thornton Chase, who, instead of entering college, left to become an officer in the Civil War. He later converted to the Bahá'í Faith and was a leading member in the United States.
Smith did not stop writing. In addition to 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee', Smith wrote over 150 other hymns and in 1843 teamed with Baron Stow to compile a Baptist hymnal, The Psalmist.
 Later years and death
Grave of Samuel Francis Smith, in Newton, MassachusettsProfessor and author Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. recommended Smith as a potential candidate for an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Harvard University in 1893. Harvard president Charles William Eliot declined, noting that My Country 'Tis of Thee was better known for its tune, which Smith did not write, rather than its lyrics. Holmes disagreed, noting that 'his song will be sung centuries from now, when most of us and our pipings are forgotten.'
He wrote a comprehensive history of his adoptive home, entitled History of Newton, Massachusetts, which was published in 1880.
Samuel Francis Smith died suddenly on November 16, 1895, while on his way by train to preach in the Boston neighborhood of Readville and was buried in Newton Cemetery in Newton. 'America' was among the pieces sung at his funeral. He was survived by his wife and 5 children. Source de l'extrait biographique : Wikipedia (Retracter) ... (lire la suite)
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