Howard Kingsbury Smith (1914-2002) was an American broadcast journalist and commentator, first for the Columbia Broadcasting System (1940-1961) and, later, the American Broadcasting Company (1962-1979). For 40 years, he was one of the preeminent names in broadcast news. His numerous awards included the Peabody and an Emmy. Smith was also the author of several books, including Last Train from Berlin: An Eye-Witness Account of Germany at War (1942) and an autobiography, Events Leading Up to My Death: The Life of a Twentieth-Century Reporter (1996).
The Smith papers span 1936 to 2001, with the bulk of the collection ranging from the mid-1950s to the 1970s. The materials include professional and personal correspondence, press clippings, publicity materials, transcripts, manuscripts, citations, photographs, and other items. Smith kept the thousands of letters he received from listeners and viewers throughout his career in response to his programs and commentaries, sometimes responding.
See the Inventories/Additional Information section for a spreadsheet inventory of this collection.
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Some materials, particularly from World War II time period, are extremely fragile and may need to be stabilized prior to handling.
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This collection contains professional and personal correspondence, press clippings, publicity materials, radio and television scripts and transcripts, manuscripts, research files, notes and memoranda, citations, photographs, and audio and videotape recordings and films. The bulk of the collection dates from the mid-1950s to the 1970s.
A native of Louisiana, Howard K. Smith attended Tulane University in New Orleans, studying German and journalism, and graduated in 1936. He subsequently went to England to study economics at Merton College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar. Smith was working for the United Press in Berlin when CBS London correspondent Edward R. Murrow hired Smith for the CBS Berlin bureau in 1941. He was one of the last reporters to leave Berlin before Germany and the United States went to war. He later returned to Berlin as representative of all American networks to witness the final surrender of Germany in May 1945.
He covered the Nuremberg trials for CBS and was chief of the CBS European news staff from 1946 to 1957. Smith received four consecutive Overseas Press Club Annual Awards for "best reporting from abroad" (1952-55). Upon his return to the United States, he took over assignments as moderator, commentator, or reporter on most of the significant CBS News programs, receiving a George Polk Award and an Emmy for his writing and narration of the documentary "The Population Explosion" in 1960. Smith also chaired the first-ever televised presidential debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.
His career was not without controversy. He fought network censorship of a documentary called "Who Speaks for Birmingham?" The acrimony prompted him to leave CBS for rival network ABC where he anchored a weekly program, "Howard K. Smith - News and Comment," in 1962. Later that year, an episode titled "The Political Obituary of Richard M. Nixon" created a firestorm. Eventually, it led to the loss of his sponsor and the cancellation of that program. Smith remained with ABC as a commentator and anchorman until April 1979, when he resigned over the curtailment of his nightly commentary. He lectured widely after that and wrote his autobiography, Events Leading Up to My Death: The Life of a Twentieth-Century Reporter.
The Howard K. Smith papers were donated to Special Collections in Mass Media and Culture at the University of Maryland Libraries in 2005 by Catherine H. Smith, his daughter.
All materials were removed from original boxes and placed into archival-quality boxes. Original folders were replaced with acid-free folders, and all other processed materials (except audio-visual) were also put into acid-free folders.
Materials on highly acidic paper were photocopied onto acid-free paper, and the originals discarded. Material printed on thermal paper (faxes) were photocopied onto acid-free paper. The originals were removed.
All paper clips, straight pins, rubber bands, and most other fasteners were removed. Staples, unless rusted, were not removed.
Where possible, the original order was maintained. In some cases, materials were loose in boxes, sometimes grouped with related material, sometimes not. Loose materials and miscellaneous files were divided into existing files or assigned appropriate folder headings. Materials were rearranged into topical and/or chronological order as appropriate.