Almost everyone who grew up in Annapolis is familiar with the popular name, Carlester “Buckwheat” Smith. He was known for walking with pep in his step, moving his arms swiftly donning a contagious smile. According to the Facebook page entitled, “Carlester Smith: The Walking Man’s Mural,” Smith passed away early this month.
A celebration of Smith’s life was held on March 6, 2021 at Pinkey’s Liquors on West Street thanks to owner, Paul Malley. Expressions of love scribbled in chalk, flowers, balloons, plastic bags, and even Smith’s favorite candy were left near the colorful mural in front of the store depicting Annapolis’s “Walking Man.”
The mural scene reminds onlookers that Smith was known for carrying plastic bags in his hands, eagerly picking up trash and cleaning up his beloved city just the way he loved to do.
Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley proclaimed March 6, as Carlester Smith Day, in the City of Annapolis. The proclamation mentioned Smith’s daily walks on West Street in Parole, while picking up trash. It also stated that Smith was born in 1957, grew up in the Obery Court community in the City of Annapolis, and died on March 1, 2021.
He reportedly played basketball at Stanton Center and became an honorary member of Tommy-Tom Marching Band. Although illness prevented Smith from continuing to pick up trash, clean parking lots, and wash windows immediately before his passing, the proclamation reminded the community that “Carlester Smith: The Walking Man’s Mural’s Facebook page” has gained 13,000 followers where city residents celebrate Smith with affection and admiration in the online space.
“We were sad to hear the news about Carlester’s passing, but we are grateful for the legacy of kindness he has left our city. We are working with community partners on a citywide cleanup day that we hope to announce later in the spring. He will be missed,” Mayor Buckley said in an email.
During the summer of 2020, Comacell Brown, Jr. and other artists completed the mural in Smith’s honor. Brown was among many who had childhood memories of seeing Smith. Many years later, the talented artist had an opportunity to help to honor a man who planted seeds of pride and kindness in the hearts of people of all ages.
Brown says the campaign to raise money to create the mural and to donate to Smith’s care was hosted by local musician Kevin Lebling and Annapolis’s City leaders, as well as other area musicians.
“I felt honored to participate in creating the concept for the Carlester mural, as a lead artist with the help of several artist friends of mine who either knew his story or adopted it through the stories we shared [about] him. We took pride in giving him flowers while he was alive to receive them. We need a lot more of that in my community,” Brown said.
“Carlester wasn’t able to see the mural, but he was aware of it by his sisters. It empowered me as an artist to know that I can serve as an artistic vanguard to the City of Annapolis while memorializing our legends.”
Even after the celebration on March 6, passersby continued to trickle onto the scene reflecting on “The Walking Man’s” legacy. Others snapped photographs of the mural or signed a guest book from the community event. When Smith appeared up and down West Street, no one could argue that one man made a difference by instilling pride in Annapolitans of all ages, and promoting a sense of community.
Smith’s enduring legacy to keep Annapolis litter-free is a powerful testament of his influence.
“Mr. Smith was a true class act. He strived to make Annapolis a better place, and he did just that. We are grateful we were given the opportunity to show our gratitude to Carlester and his family,” the Facebook page team said in a message. “His smile and spirit will always remain firmly rooted on West Street.”