Eugene (Gene) Smith was born on December 24, 1923 in Birmingham, Alabama to
Luman and Amanda Smith. He was an exuberant child, raised in a deeply religious
household, the second son of four brothers.
Early in his childhood, a fire completely destroyed his family’s home and he went to live with
an aunt, whose house was near his elementary and high school. At Lincoln Elementary
School, he was regarded as a loyal and unassuming student; at A.H. Parker High School,
he excelled in industrial training courses and he played the trumpet in the school’s marching
Upon graduating from Birmingham’s A.H. Parker High School, his military service
began at the Marine Montford Point Lejeune Camp in New River, North Carolina. His
tour included military maneuvers in Guantanamo Bay Cuba, Panama, New Caladonia,
Guadalcanal and Okinawa. With considerable pride, Gene was honorably discharged at the
end of World War II on December 27, 1945. On June 27, 2012, he was awarded a
Congressional Gold Medal as a Montford Point Marine.
During 1947, Gene began is professional cooking career in Chicago at the Pick Congress
Hotel. He also married Robbie Eberhardt, a teacher, who had relocated to the “Windy
City” from Atlanta. Together, they had three children: Eric, Karla and Robin (“Gigi”)
before Robbie passed in 1959 following a long-term illness. Until he later remarried, Gene
nobly supported and raised his children as a single parent.
Rising fast in the culinary world, Gene worked breakfast and swing cook positions up to the
highly respected Head Sauce Cook position at the Sherman House Hotel (1954-1959) to
the Working Chef for the Club Alabam, plus the Food Consultant for Craine Restaurants
before becoming the Assistant Executive Chef at the Sherman House Hotel (1960-1965).
On July 1, 1961, Gene married Jeanette Hinton, who with her niece Carol Sharp added a
fourth child to the Smith household. They put each of the kids through college, enabling each
one of them to enjoy professional well-paying careers.
In 1965, Gene became the first African-American Chef in the City of Chicago, working at
the world famous Sherman House Hotel. His responsibilities included managing three
hundred man crews that serviced multi-ethnic cultures, generating sales that grossed over 6
After the Sherman House Hotel closed, Gene assumed Executive Chef positions at the Sears
Tower (1973-1978) and then on to the Christ Hospital (1984-1986). At that time, the
Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world and featured a 300 seat gourmet
restaurant and generated 5 million dollars of total annual sales from all of its eateries. At the
Christ Hospital his teams served 7000 gourmet and fast food meals.
While working part-time and semi-retired, Gene managed a banquet and guest services
operation for the Chicago White Sox. One highlight was throwing-out the first pitch to
start a night game; he obviously enjoyed working in this environment.
Gene maintained active memberships with the Montford Point Marine Association, The
Chef’s Cuisine Association of Chicago and the Executive Chef’s Association of Illinois.
After a complicated illness, Gene died on June 20, 2018. He is survived by his devoted
wife, Jeanette; son Eric Smith (Julia); daughters Karla Broadus (William - deceased)
and Robin “Gigi” Anderson (Allen); Nieces Carol and Latryce Sharp; Grandchildren:
Tony and Brittany (Anderson), Nikki Vaughn (LaSalle III), Shawntel Curtis
(Sidney), Erica & Brent Smith; Great Grandchildren Sydney & LaSalle IV Vaughn,
Gabrielle Curtis, Mikayla & Makai Anderson, and a host of relatives and friends. They
will all miss him immensely.