Jeremis Smith knew one morning in 2019, while living in Portland, Oregon, that it was time to return to Fort Worth. He remembers feeling out of alignment.
“I’m having a great time, I’m eating good food, I have friendships up here, but I’m outside of my purpose,” he said.
Smith packed up his car and drove more than 30 hours back home.
After a career playing professional basketball around the world, Smith now runs a construction company, Legacy Construction Solutions LLC, and a wealth management business in the Stop Six neighborhood where he grew up. He buys old, abandoned homes or homes from families in Stop Six, refurbishes them and sells them at a discounted rate. He also buys vacant land in the area to build houses.
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Building in Stop Six is special to him, he said. His grandfather also built houses in the area.
“To be able to continue the tradition of my family’s history is something I’m very proud of,” Smith said.
Smith went to Dunbar High School, where he played on the basketball team under coach Robert Hughes, who led the team to the state championship in 2003.
Glenn S. Forbes, the executive director of CDFI Friendly Fort Worth, has known Smith since his days at Dunbar. Forbes described him as a man among boys growing up, someone who was a go-to leader on youth sports teams and on into high school. Smith was dominant on the court, he said. Forbes’ son played against Smith in high school and they were friends, he said.
“When you knew you had to play Dunbar, as much as you knew you were going against Coach Hughes back then … you knew you had to play against Jeremis,” Forbes said.
Forbes continued to follow Smith’s basketball career at Georgia Tech University. He is glad to see Smith back in Stop Six, seeking to make change. Areas that don’t have much investment need people with a new vision and young developers as the city grows.
“It also shows that he’s willing to do something that most will say you can’t do,” Forbes said. “And that’s to try and reinvest and redevelop the community that … (is) either an afterthought or will only get done farther down the road, because there are individuals that don’t take the interest that he’s taking.”
After not getting drafted to a professional league in the U.S., Smith went on to play internationally for teams in Mexico and Israel from 2009 to 2019. The experience changed his life – he was exposed to different cultures and ideas that he had to navigate on and off the court.
“You have to find your commonality with people. Otherwise, you’ll always be an insult to a different culture,” Smith said. “Where leadership comes into play is making sure that respect is there.”
Smith brought those lessons back to Fort Worth and his construction company, where he works with many Spanish speakers, he said. His leadership advice is to learn how to be a follower.
“You can’t lead if you don’t also know how to follow,” Smith said. “If you don’t know how to communicate, if you don’t know how to listen, if you don’t know how to take advice.”
Lisa McDaniel, who is building an early learning center in the area and is the owner of Lisa’s Little Angels Learning Center, 2714 Stalcup Road, said she spoke with Smith about what the Stop Six area needs. She found him eager to get things done and to see change in the community.
McDaniel calls Smith a team player and likes that he takes time to meet with community members to ask about their needs.
“He made a table for the community to come and share their ideas,” McDaniel said.
Along with his housing business, Smith also refurbished and opened a bar called Hamilton Social, located at 6825 E. Lancaster Ave., which used to be known as the Peppermill Lounge. The bar has live jazz on Friday nights.
He envisions making the Handley business district into something similar to Fort Worth’s Magnolia Avenue or Bishop Arts in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas. He has fond memories of the Handley area growing up, he said. He used to eat at a pizza joint there when he was younger.
One of Smith’s largest ambitions is to bring a historically Black college into Stop Six, which he said would be his biggest contribution in his lifetime.
Smith wants members of the Black community to know that they can move away, go to college, become successful and then move back to their hometown. He encourages people to come back and make a difference.
“I want to challenge more people to move, more Black people to move back to the neighborhoods that molded them into who they are,” Smith said. “And contribute to it, to help enhance it.”
Jeremis Smith bio:
Birthplace: Fort Worth
Moved to Fort Worth: “I was born and raised in Fort Worth.”
Family: Mother is Von Smith. Father is Rick Smith. Brother is Shane Smith. Sister is Jerin Smith. Married to Camille Smith, a former WNBA player who also played internationally for teams in Israel and Turkey and who now works as head women’s basketball coach at Paul Quinn College in Dallas.
Education: Dunbar High School. Bachelor’s degree in business management from Georgia Tech.
Work experience: “I own my own construction company, wealth management company and am an investor of many other things.”
Volunteer experience: “I have volunteered with the Tarrant County Food Bank, United Way, Dunbar High School’s Donuts with Dads and my church.”
First job: “Summertime job at my church.”
Advice for someone learning to be a leader: “It’s just as valuable to take heed to good leadership as it is to be a leader.”
Best advice ever received: “Watch the company you keep.”
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.
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