Favorite

-30- 

The Observer lost a friend and colleague over the Thanksgiving holiday: Doug Smith, the long-time Arkansas newsman and editorial writer, who retired from the Arkansas Times in 2013 and died on Nov. 26 after a long struggle with heart ailments. He was 74.

The Observer is the caretaker of Doug's old office, in fact — one exposed brick wall, a door that shuts mostly tight, carpet the color of sodden newspaper, and a big window that looks down on the corner of Scott and Markham, where drivers regularly entertain Yours Truly by playing smash-'em-ups in the intersection. It's a good lair for a newspaper fella to call home base.

Doug, like several of the inmates here, was a refugee from the old Gazette, starting there all the way back in 1963 and coming to the Arkansas Times only after the conquering horde drove him away from his desk with rocks and sharp sticks. From 1992 until his retirement, he was a reporter for the Times, and wrote most of our unsigned editorials, lending a voice that sang in harmony with the long-gone Gazette. He was also our main copy editor, looking over proof pages and scrawling his "DS" in the corner in red pen to show he had somehow managed to machete his way through the kudzu of The Observer's prose, killing off our ferocious, dignity-eating typos along the way. He saved Yours Truly from embarrasing embarassing embarrassing myself many a time.

Doug was already a fixture here when The Observer arrived in 2002, all of 27 years old and greener than gooseshit, having last written a newspaper story during an Intro to News Reporting class I took back in college before coming to my senses. He was impressive, the stoic sort, always in a suit and tie, always carrying a sensible black umbrella any time there was more than a 20 percent chance of rain. It took a good five years here before we heard him speak 10 sentences, and another five before we heard him speak 20 more. He kept his office, which The Observer has since turned into a den of filth and iniquity, like a monk's cell: a small desk against one wall, uncluttered except for a telephone, a Rolodex, a computer screen, a keyboard, a pad and a pen. No pictures on the walls, no rug on the floor, no stained-glass lamps and red velvet cushions around a hookah pipe like The Observer has installed. Just the no-nonsense tools of the journalist's trade. We were not surprised when his niece said about Doug at the memorial service last Monday afternoon that his tidy bachelor's apartment in Hillcrest was just like that: a few sticks of furniture, a lamp, a bunch of books, a pile of newspapers. A no-nonsense life, dedicated to the mind, the news and the written word.

His work ethic was a lot like that, too. Reporters, we've learned from working here and personal experience, are notorious gripers. We complain about stories that just won't come, about the boss, about deadlines, about brilliance skewered by an editor's red pen, about sources who just won't call us back for a nice, leisurely chat between friends that will be printed verbatim in the newspaper. Doug, though, seemed to hover outside of all that. He did not complain and did not explain. He reported and wrote without complaint, and when the copy was due, he turned it in without the need for commiseration.

The Observer doesn't have one role model we look to for hints on how we should spend this life. We've got a couple dozen. From our father, we get the ability to find beauty in every crack in the sidewalk. From Ernie Pyle, we get courage. From Bob Lancaster, we get how to spin golden thread from the straw of existence. From Max Brantley and Mara Leveritt, we get bulldog tenacity. From Flannery O'Connor, we get faith. From Eudora Welty, we get how to write the senses. And from Doug, we got what it is to be someone who makes the phone calls, takes good notes, puts pants to chair, shuts his mouth and does the job. That's so much more valuable than you might think.

They just don't make 'em like you anymore, Doug, but we're trying. Goodnight, Mr. Words.

Favorite

Speaking of Doug Smith

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • I'm sorry

    I'm sorry we stood by while your generation's hope was smothered by $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, just because you were trying to educate yourselves enough to avoid falling for the snake oil and big talk of a fascist.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Snake stories

    The Observer's boss, Uncle Alan, is something of a gentleman farmer on his spread up in Cabot, growing heirloom tomatoes and watermelons and crops of chiggers on property that looks like the perfect farmstead Lenny and George often fantasized about in "Of Mice and Men."
    • Aug 27, 2015
  • Show and tell

    The Observer is an advocate of the A+ method of integrating the arts and using creativity to teach across the curriculum, an approach that the Thea Foundation, with help from the Windgate Charitable Foundation, is offering to schools across the state.
    • Feb 25, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in The Observer

  • Steamrolled

    Levy says goodbye to The Gettin' Place, a mom and pop store and deli.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • Nibbles

    As winter turns to spring, The Observer finds again the urge to get our fishing pole and tackle box, dig some worms out in the backyard, and go fishing.
    • Mar 16, 2017
  • There once was a prez who was orange ...

    The lefties The Observer knows are coping with the Dorito Mussolini regime in different ways: working out, creating art, staying well away from Twitter and randomly driving in the countryside to scream bloody murder and throw crockery at the moon.
    • Mar 2, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Arkansas is the perfect place to try out this new health trend. Read all about the what, why, where and how here.

Event Calendar

« »

March

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • ARKids turns 20

    Medicaid expansion in 1997 brought huge change for children's health. What will the next 20 years bring?

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation