July 18, 2017
Editors’ note: This web site frequently re-posted Jack Smith’s perceptive artices. Thanks to Michael Munk for calling this obituary to our attention.
Jack was my comrade in arms in our efforts to update ideology and reporting at the National Guardian for his first three years there. He stayed and I left, but we kept in touch respectfully throughout the years of his righteous life. I’m also struggling with his COPD –from our smoking in the Guardian office. This obit may be from his family — Michael Munk
Jack A. Smith, a journalist and progressive activist, died surrounded by loved ones at his home in New Paltz, NY on June 29 from complications of COPD.
From 1963-1984, Jack worked at the influential leftist newspaper the Guardian, as a writer and ultimately as editor.
Jack was born in Queens, NY to a low-income family in 1934 and he began working full time at 16, attending night school to get his high school diploma. Jack’s first job as a journalist was at United Press International as a copy boy and wire editor, then news writer.
Jack came of age politically as a radical pacifist in his early 20s. At 26 years old, in 1961, in opposition to rumors that the United States might intervene militarily in Viet Nam and against the Cold War nuclear build up, Jack returned his draft card to Selective Service, defying the law by which young men were required to carry the cards on their person at all times. Though Jack was over age for the draft and had two young children, he was drafted and when he refused to serve he was indicted, convicted, and served time in federal prison.
After his release from prison, unable to find work at most newspapers because of his political views, he found a job as a writer at the National Guardian where he remained for 21 years, moving from writer to news editor to the paper’s editor over a few years Under Jack’s leadership the Guardian built on a tradition of excellent reporting on foreign policy with expanded coverage of the political movements of the 60s and 70s and the best coverage of the Vietnam War from a left perspective.
After leaving the Guardian, Jack remained politically active through retirement and until the last months of his life, organizing demonstrations and political meetings along with his wife Donna Goodman. A committed socialist and Marxist, Jack was a member of Workers World Party and then Party for Socialism and liberation.
In his retirement, Jack created and edited the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter and Calendar. The Newsletter offered a left analysis of current events, and the Calendar announced local progressive activism. Over the years, this online publication reached thousands of subscribers every month, and many progressive on-line news outlets picked up Jack’s long form articles.
Along with his career as a writer and editor, Jack was an avid camper, hiker and cyclist, a lover of music and reading, and, in his healthier years, a good martini. Jack was an animal lover and vegetarian from the age of twelve. He was also a brother, a father, an uncle, a grandpa, and a devoted husband to Donna. Jack will be remembered not only for his quest for justice but also for his hearty sense of humor and his zest for life.
Jack is survived by Donna, his partner of 33 years, his sister Dorothea Smith, his daughters and step-daughters: Malissa Smith, Tamar Smith, Laurie Davidson, and Leila Nichols; son Kirk; sons-in-law: Jed Stevenson, Dan Loomis, Charlie Bengs and Michael Golub; his niece and nephew Lori Becker and Jon Becker, their children Nick Monico and Sarah Becker; and his seven wonderful grandchildren: Isabella Stevenson, Sophia Smith-Golub, Ariel Smith-Golub, Killian Bengs, Asa Bengs, Dylan Loomis and Finn Loomis. He was very loved and he will be missed.
His family wishes to express its deep appreciation to Hudson Valley Hospice. Special thanks also go to Barbara Wilson and George Caulfield, who cared for Jack so lovingly during his last months.
A memorial will take place in September and will be announced shortly.
Those willing to make a donation in Jack’s honor are asked to contribute to Hudson Valley Hospice, 400 Aaron Court, Kingston, NY 12401. http://hvhospice.org/