Ashley Smith

Atlanta's Hostage Hero

Ashley Smith is known worldwide as the single mother who persuaded Brian Nichols, Atlanta’s courtroom killer, to surrender to police. Nichols himself called Ashley “an angel sent from God", but ironically, it was Ashley’s less-than-angelic past that convinced him to face justice. Ashley believes God led her through the highly publicized experience to help “unlikely angels” everywhere find hope.

Ashley was born in Augusta, Georgia, surrounded by a God-fearing, sports-loving family. Her parents divorced when she was a toddler. Too young, she took up with Mack Smith, a volatile man with a disreputable past. Ashley became pregnant less than a year into their relationship, and the couple married just two months before baby Paige was born prematurely. Just as they began to settle down, Mack ran into his old gang and was fatally stabbed by people he once called friends.

Following Mack’s murder, Ashley willingly gave her aunt custody of Paige. Ashley loved her daughter, but she also struggled from a debilitating addiction to methamphetamines. Ashley says she heard God calling, but kept putting Him on hold while she flirted with temptation.

Ashley’s life changed dramatically on March 11, 2005, when Brian Nichols forced his way into her apartment following his deadly rampage at Atlanta’s Fulton County Courthouse. After offering Nichols her remaining stash of methamphetamines, she brought out her copy of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. During her seven hours as Nichols’ hostage, her life-story and Warren’s direction made Nichols consider how God could use him if he surrendered. He did so the following morning.

Afterwards she wrote her best-selling book, Unlikely Angel—The Untold Story of Atlanta’s Hostage Hero, donating proceeds to a memorial fund honoring the victims of the Atlanta courthouse tragedy. She returned to the familiar embrace of her family and now lives with them and her daughter Paige. Ashley’s familiar face reaches seekers from all walks of life, and her authentic, quietly courageous testimony exemplifies a genuine, guiding faith.