Nita Hilliard Smith, 73, died peacefully at UNC Hospital on Saturday, July 15, 2023 with her daughters by her side.
Nita was born on September 8, 1949 in Big Stone Gap, VA and was the oldest child born to the late James Ebbie Hilliard and the late Louise Fleenor Hilliard. Nita grew up in Bristol, VA and moved to Winston-Salem for high school when her father became the manager of a local grocery store. After graduating from Parkland High School in 1967, Nita attended Appalachian State University where she earned a B.A. in English in 1972. While there she worked on the university’s student newspaper, The Appalachian, and felt it laid the foundation for her career as a journalist. Nita’s first jobs out of college were at the Clemmons Courier, Boone’s Watauga Democrat and the Winston-Salem Journal. She had fond memories of covering school board meetings and local politics and, especially, of an interview with a newly hired community planner, Bill Smith.
After years of dating, they were married in Boone on May 11,1980 and settled down in Winston-Salem. But Bill, who had grown up in Eastern Carolina, eventually talked Nita into relocating to his part of the world. She had been working as a freelance writer while raising their two daughters but soon found herself being the assistant editor of Williamston’s two newspapers, The Enterprise & Weekly Herald. She was promoted to editor in 2001 and remained in that role until her retirement in 2011.
Nita was a member of Winston-Salem Friends Meeting and continued to honor her Quaker faith throughout her life. But when she relocated to Williamston, she found herself living in a house beside the Church of the Advent and became an enthusiastic member, referring to herself as an “Episco-Quaker.” She looked for the light of God in everyone she met and had a strong sense of justice.
Nita is survived by her daughters, Amanda of Atlanta, GA and Sarah of Chapel Hill, and her brother Michael Hilliard of Yadkinville. She is also survived by her beloved “fur” grandchildren Jake, Jennette, Nefertiti, and George.
Nita will be remembered as a loving mother, faithful wife, loyal friend and dedicated mentor to the next generation of journalists.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 2 pm on Saturday, September 9 at the Church of the Advent in Williamston. A reception will be held immediately following the service in the Fellowship Hall.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to “Dementia Alliance of NC” at https://dementianc.org/ or 9131 Anson Way, Suite 206, Raleigh, NC 27615. Alternatively, gifts can be made to “NC Scholastic Media Association” at http://bit.ly/ncsma_donation or Hussman School of Journalism, UNC, 284 Carroll Hall, CB# 3365, Chapel Hill, NC 27599 to support the next generation of journalists.
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