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Howard K. Smith papers

 Collection 0568-MMC

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.


  • 1936-2001 and undated
  • Majority of material found within mid-1950s-1970s

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Some materials, particularly from World War II time period, are extremely fragile and may need to be stabilized prior to handling.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the special collections reading room staff.


240 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents

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.

Biographical / Historical

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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

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.

Processing Information

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.

Guide to the Howard K. Smith papers
Minimally Processed
Finding aid and inventory by Jim Baxter
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742