Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
On this page, he had an uncanny knack for distilling complicated issues — law, medicine, education — to understandable terms in a small amount of space. He wasn't interested in a lot of argumentation or in showing how smart he was. He measured everything by a few principles — truth, kindness, generosity, tolerance, humility — and he told you exactly how things measured up. And he did it beautifully, with humor and grace.
Doug joined the Times in 1992, as part of a cadre of Arkansas Gazette veterans who gave a jumpstart to the conversion of the Times from a monthly to a weekly publication. He'd worked for the Gazette for nearly 30 years before it closed in 1991, notably as a Capitol reporter, editorial writer and "Words" columnist. The "Words" column continued at the Times, offering up Doug's unique brand of erudite humor (where else could readers learn whether the expression is, to get a wild hare or a wild hair and up what?).
Without the stature of people like Doug (and Ernest Dumas, Bob Lancaster and George Fisher) and the following they brought to the Times from the Gazette, it's safe to say we would never have gotten the weekly edition off the ground. Doug and company brought us an initial base of readers that has enabled the Times to survive 22 years now in a dramatically changed publishing world.
Doug's particular talents and institutional knowledge can't be replaced. He will be missed. This week marks the end of this column and last week signaled the end of the long-running "Words" column.