A visionary cooperative leader for more than 40 years, J.K. Smith always found a cooperative solution to whatever business issue confronted him. He worked diligently to serve the needs of rural people, and consistently embraced cooperation among cooperatives.
He was the first general manager of Fleming-Mason Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation in Kentucky, and founded and served as the first general manager of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives, where he created cooperatives ranging from credit unions to supply cooperatives to a data processing cooperative service center. He was also instrumental in the formation of the East Kentucky Power Cooperative, serving as its first Secretary-Treasurer.
Internationally, Smith helped create Ecuador's first electric cooperative and established a unique program to send used U.S. electrical equipment overseas to help provide electricity.
Smith's crowning achievement nationally was the founding of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC). Not only was he the driving force in creating this entity, but he also served as its first governor and helped shape it into a financial powerhouse for electric cooperatives.