On Saturday, July 11, James R. “Jim” Smith of Georgetown, Texas, was elected Imperial Potentate of Shriners International, part of the 12-member body that helps govern the Shriners fraternity, during the Shriners’ 2020 Imperial Session in Tampa, Florida. As Imperial Potentate, Smith is the highest-ranking Shriner in the world, and serves as president of the Board of Directors of Shriners International and chairman of the Board of Directors of Shriners Hospitals for Children. This is Smith’s 10th year as a member of the Boards of Directors for Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Getting to know Jim Smith
A native of Racine, Wisconsin, Jim Smith spent his childhood summers on his father’s family farm. “I really enjoyed that time. It was a great way to be raised,” he said.
Growing up, the importance of family and faith were deeply instilled – to this day, he continues to uphold the conservative values and Lutheran faith of his family.
Smith received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin. He studied for his MBA at the Keller School of Management in Chicago.
Jim Smith and his wife, Alice Smith, first met through a blind date. They were married 10 months later in Alice’s hometown of Kilkenny, Minnesota, and will celebrate their 48th wedding anniversary in August.
For more than 30 years, Smith worked in the material handling business. As his career with a conveyor systems company progressed, the family moved quite often, mostly to various cities in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but they also spent time in Illinois and on the East Coast. Eventually, they purchased a fuel company in Phillips, Wisconsin, which was their last move before retiring to Georgetown, Texas.
The Smiths have a son, Jason, and a daughter, Abby, and five grandchildren. The fraternal tradition will continue in the Smith family for at least the next generation – both Jason and Abby’s husband, Greg, are also Shriners. Smith’s hobbies include traveling, barbequing and visiting with his grandkids.
The future of the Shriners Fraternity
Smith became a Mason on Feb. 13, 1999, and a Shriner in 2004. He joined the fraternity as a way to acknowledge and give back to the organizations that assisted a nephew who had orthopaedic difficulties, and received care at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago throughout his childhood.
Smith first joined Zor Shriners in Madison, Wisconsin. When the family moved to Georgetown, Texas, Jim joined Ben Hur Shriners in Austin, where he participated in the Provost Guard and helped transport children to and from the Texas Shriners Hospitals. He also sat on the Board of Governors for the Houston Shriners Hospital.
In 2009, Smith served as Potentate (president) of Ben Hur Shriners. That year, the temple (chapter) had a balanced budget for the first time in many years and was awarded a Gold Membership Award for a net gain in membership. It was the first time Ben Hur Shriners had achieved gold status in 38 years.
Smith became a member of the Shriners’ Boards of Directors to make a difference. “I really thought I could help,” he said. “We need to strengthen the temples and ensure they are places where people want to go, and are welcomed.”
Smith believes the fraternity needs to emphasize and focus on its original purpose of bringing fun and fellowship to a Masonic organization.
“When the Shriners fraternity started in 1872, its purpose was fun and fellowship,” said Smith. “We did well with that – but we’ve lost our focus. As Imperial Potentate, I will try to put Fun and Fellowship back in the fraternity.