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Debra Rawls Smathers

May 4, 1950 ~ April 26, 2021 (age 70)


Raleigh, Debra Rawls Smathers, age 70, died Monday, April 26, 2021.

Debra was born May 4, 1950 in Rocky Mount, NC, daughter of Robert Watson Rawls and Ann Willcox Rawls.

She graduated from Rocky Mount Senior High School as a member of the Class of 1968 and attended Atlantic Christian College.

Debra worked for Hardee’s Food Systems, Inc. in franchise management and worked for several law firms in Rocky Mount including Biggs, Meadows and Batts and Poyner & Spruill. She also pursued politics, working with the successful campaigns of a US Congressman, a North Carolina Attorney General, and a North Carolina Governor.

She cherished her travels from a young age with numerous family trips up and down the east coast.  In later life she enjoyed many European adventures, especially France and Italy.  Her last European visit was a glorious 30 day trip through England with her husband.

Debra also loved the arts.  Museums and art galleries were a frequent stop on any trip.  She loved attending Broadway shows in New York while visiting family in Connecticut.

She is survived by her devoted husband, Joseph Fleetwood Smathers of Raleigh; her mother, Ann Willcox Rawls; and sister, Lee Rawls Dickinson and husband, Steve, of Piedmont, South Carolina. She was predeceased by her first husband, Durwood Allen “Woody” Brown of Rocky Mount.

There will be a private family service at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to a Lakeside Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, NC.

The care of Mrs. Smathers has been entrusted to Wells Funeral Home of Canton and an online memorial register is available at "Obituaries" at



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