Sam Smith bio

Sam Smith. . . Is a writer, activist and social critic who has been at the forefront of new ideas and new politics for more than five decades. He has been editing alternative publications since 1964, longer than almost anyone in the country.

· Is the author of four highly acclaimed books, two at the request of editors – the latest of which is Why Bother?: Getting a Life in a Locked Down Land, which was an Utne Reader staff pick and was selected by Working Assets as one of its books of the month.

· Is an award-winning alternative journalist and editor of The Progressive Review.

· Has helped to start 6 organizations. Was one of the organizers of the Association of State Green Parties – forerunner of the national Green Party – and, in the 1970s, was a co-founder of the DC Statehood Party.

· Is the author of Sam Smith’s Great American Political Repair Manual published by WW Norton in America and Europe and excerpted in Utne Reader. His Shadows of Hope: A Freethinker’s Guide to Politics in the Time of Clinton (1994) won cross-ideological praise. The book was the first to raise serious questions about Clinton’s character and political intentions.

· Wrote Captive Capital: Colonial Life in Modern Washington, published in 1974, which is still cited as an authority on the local city.

· Has been published in a number of anthologies including Media & Democracy (1996), You Are Being Lied To (2001), Censored 2000 (2001), 50 Reasons Not to Vote for Bush (2004), and Quest: Reading the World and Arguing for Change (2006)

· One of his essays, An Apology to Young Americans, was turned into a musical number by Yale associate professor of music John Halle and have been performed in several cities.

· Has had articles published in the Washington Post, Washington Star, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, San Jose Mercury News, Planning Magazine, Illustrated London News, Washington World, Regardie’s Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Harper’s, Washington Monthly, Washington Tribune, Washington City Paper, Nashville Scene, Washington History, Designer/Builder, Progressive Populist, North Coast Express, Yes!, Potomac Review, London Time Out, Counterpunch, Neiman Watchdog, Green Horizon Quarterly, London Telegraph, Southern Arizona News Examiner, workimg Waterfront and Utne Reader.

Selected in 2009 as a New Media Hero by the staff of the Alternet news service.

· Is a native Washingtonian who covered his first Washington story in 1957 as a 19-year-old radio news reporter.

– Has served on the board of the Fund for Constitutional Government, Commercial Alert, the DC United Black Fund, Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, Project on Government Oversight, and the DC NAACP Police & Justice Task Force

· Was American correspondent for the Illustrated London News.

· Has been a radio newsman and a guest commentator on radio and television. For five years he appeared weekly television, and later radio, panels otherwise comprised of black journalists. Has appeared on nearly 900 radio and TV talk shows from NPR to the O’Reilly Factor

· The arts section of his DC Gazette featured the work of Tom Shales (later TV critic for the Washington Post), Roland Freeman (later a nationally recognized photographer), and Patricia Griffith (later president of the Pen-Faulkner Foundation). In the mid-seventies, the arts section was spun off as a separate publication, the Washington Review, which lasted 25 years and won a number of awards.

· The DC Gazette early published a number of writers and cartoonists who later became far more widely known including Tony Auth, Dave Barry and Bill Griffith. The Gazette also published what was then the only urban planning comic strip in America as well as the first column by a prison inmate to appear in a non-penal publication.

· Was a leading journalistic voice against the Washington Post-backed plan to build miles of freeways that would have made DC look like an east coast Los Angeles.

· Was the first writer to call for DC statehood and explain how it could be achieved without a constitutional amendment. Also advocated urban statehood for largest metro areas.

. In the early 1970s became one of the first publications to support a revival of light rail and other alternatives to hyper-expensive and inefficient subway systems.

·Was an early advocate of bikeways.

– Has been a vigorous opponent of destructive urban planning practices .

·Since the 1960s has been a critic of the punitive approach to drug addiction.

– Was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1966, assisting the then chair, Marion Barry, in public relations.

· Wrote a 1990 article on the second S&L scandal — the S&L bailout itself — that was selected by Utne Reader as one of the top ten undercovered stories of past decade.

· Has been co-plaintiff in seven public interest law suits, three of them successful. Was a plaintiff in a suit against the president and Congress for denying democracy to the District of Columbia, which was ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court.

· Was elected as an advisory neighborhood commissioner in the Washington’s first neighborhood elections.

· Served as home & school association president for a DC public elementary school.

· Was a founding member of the DC Communities Humanities Council, the local funding body of the National Endowment on the Humanities.

· Was operations officer and navigator aboard a Coast Guard cutter and later executive officer of the Baltimore Coast Guard reserve unit.

· Graduated from Harvard in 1959 with a major in anthropology. Was news director of Harvard radio station WHRB. Was elected station manager but couldn’t serve due to academic probation.

· Was a member of the Maine state crew in the New England men’s sailing championship, 1956, and of the Harvard varsity sailing team.

· Spent his teen years in Philadelphia. Attended Germantown Friends School and took part in his first political campaign at the age of 12. Started his first alternative publication, a family newspaper, when he was 13.

· For four decades was a semi-professional musician (first drums, then stride piano and vocals). He had his own group – the Decoland Band – for a number of years and was the co-composer of a musical revue.

· Is a member of the board (and formerly president) of the Wolfe’s Neck Farm Foundation, a community-based alternative agricultural center which created the largest natural beef operation in the northeastern part of the country.

· Was a co-owner and trustee of Philadelphia’s classical music station started by his father, WFLN, for 14 years.

– Married to historian and author Kathryn Schneider Smith, who has written several books – most recently Washington At Home – and started Cultural Tourism DC.. She the former chair of the advisors to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historical Society of Washington.

They have two sons.


An alternative press icon if ever there was one — NY Press

A truly independent journalist with his feet firmly grounded in the reality of neighborhoods and everyday people. — Patrick Mazza, Progressive Populist

A larger than life presence in the nation’s capital . . .A truly original voice in American journalism: humorous and plain spoken and filled with common sense — Jay Walljasper, Utne Reader

Inimitable — Mother Jones Magazine

Sam’s a cynical cat — Marion Barry

The Progressive Review has been a luxuriant jungle of old-school reporting and frenetic information exchange since before blogs were blogs, and before the the Internet was the Internet. Feels like visiting Bugs Raplin’s apartment [in the movie Bob Roberts]. – Jason Zannon, Democracy In Action

One of the nation’s leading visionaries. — Charlie Spencer, Charlie Spencer Show

Notorious journalist — Seattle Weekly

Washington has but a very few observers of the caliber, honesty and overall orneriness at the right times and places as Sam Smith — Stephen Goode, Insight Magazine

Sam’s one of the few independent voices left. The press today is either extreme or special interest or else just establishment, an extension of the corporate spirit — Eugene McCarthy,

He has a wonderful combination of being absolutely realistic about the vagaries of people in political life while still being an idealist. — Peter Edelman

A reputation for wit, intelligence and anger. — Claude Lewis, Chicago Tribune

A very good summary of a lot of items from a left perspective, but they are also interesting to our readers – Christopher Ruddy, editor of the conservative Newsmax

Smith is an island of reason and information in a sea of narcissistic blather. — City Paper, Washington

[He’s] no stranger to clamorous debate — in fact, he’s caused more than his share of it himself. — Tom McNichols, Washington City Paper

Smith is an island of reason and information in a sea of narcissistic blather. — City Paper, Washington

Capital curmudgeon — Phylilis Richman, Washington Post

For a 31 year old anthropology major (Harvard) Sam Smith runs a pretty good newspaper. His Capitol East Gazette, in fact, nay be the best paper in town. It certainly is the most readable. –William Raspberry, Washington Post 1969

8 thoughts on “Sam Smith bio

  1. Dear Sam,

    I’m a writer and wish to find the source material of a quote that’s been attributed to you in Mary Pipher’s book from 2006 called Writing to Change the World. Is this your quote:

    “I feel the vacuum, the loneliness, the silence, the dehydration of the soul as people who want desperately to save our constitution, country and planet still wander the streets without knowing how to say hi to one another.” –Sam Smith

    I’m hoping it’s you! Do you remember where you wrote this or said it? If it is you?

  2. Dear Sam,

    In 2001 we celebrated Charlie Mason’s 90th birthday together with a celebration at UDC and you spoke. Is there any chance you might have recollection or notes from that day? I’m the surviving partner of artist David Jamieson, who had been their foster child, and I helped organize that day, on which I announced the loan of portraits by David of Hilda and Charlie to UDC-DCSL. The portraits came back home a few years ago, after an unfortunate event, and are now in storage. I live in the house Charlie bought in Mount Pleasant in the 1950s which was made available to David in 1988. David died of AIDS-related causes in 1992 and Charlie subsequently placed the house in trust dedicated to the display of his artwork. As we work toward determining the best permanent public place for these artworks I am seeking any archival materials, etc. I might locate. The program for Charlie’s 90th birthday in the auditorium at UDC was videotaped. I’ve reached out to UDC in hopes this may be archived and/or in storage and located. Please let me know if you might have any records, etc. of this event. So grateful to regularly receive your blog! Best regards, Peter Stebbins

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