Senator William A Smith

Mark Baber

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The New York Times, 12 October 1932

EX-SENATOR SMITH IS DEAD IN MICHIGAN
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Member of U. S. Body From 1906 to 1918 Began Public Life as Page in Legislature
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SERVED 6 TERMS IN HOUSE
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Rose From Poverty In Youth to Be Lawyer, Banker, Publisher and Owner of Transit Firm
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Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES
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GRAND RAPIDS Mich., Oct. 11--- Former Senator William Alden Smith died at 4:30 o'clock this afternoon after a heart attack, the second since Friday night when he was stricken at the close of a Republican mass meeting here at which he was a speaker. He had been confined to his room since, but only his intimate associates knew of his condition.

Mr. Smith was born in Dowagiac, Mich., 73 years ago, and was brought to Grand Rapids by his parents when he was 13 years old. He began at once to sell popcorn in the streets as a means to increasing the family income. At the time of his death he was chairman of the Grand Rapids State Bank, principal owner of the Goodrich Transit Company, controlling a boat line from Chicago to Western Michigan cities, and one of the principal stockholders of The Grand Rapids Herald and president of The Herald Publishing Company.

Senator Smith's public career began at the age of 17 when he became a page in the Michigan Legislature. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1882, later forming the firm of Smiley, Stevens & Smith.

He was elected to Congress from the Fifth Michigan District in 1894 and served six terms. He was re-elected for the seventh term but did not take his seat, as he entered the race for the United States Senate to succeed Senator Russell A. Alger who had retired. While in the House he was on the committee which instituted territorial rights for Alaska and he was instrumental in shaping the tariff policy for Cuba. He was in the Senate from 1906 to 1918, when he retired and, with his only son, William Alden Smith Jr., prepared to give his time to business.

In 1906 Senator Smith bought The Herald from the Booth interests and continued as its manager until 1918. He retired in that year and his son became manager. The younger Mr. Smith, however, lived only a short time thereafter and was succeeded by Arthur H. Vandenberg, now junior Senator from Michigan. Senator Vandenberg relinquished the management upon his election to the Senate.

Senator Smith's business interests were varied. At twenty he built spur railroads in Northern Michigan; he was counsel for the Pere Marquette Railroad for a time, was interested in real estate and was a director in trust companies.

In October, 1886, he married Nana Osterhout of Grand Rapids, who survives him with two grandchildren, now living in England with their mother. Mrs. William Alden Smith Jr., was a daughter of the late Milton McRae, prominent publisher.
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Senator Smith was chairman of the sub-committee of the United States Senate that investigated the sinking of the White Star liner Titanic. His conduct of the hearings was adversely criticized in English newspapers.

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Mark Baber

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The New York Times, 4 May 1912

SENATOR SMITH REBUKED
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Woman in a Letter Complains of a Lack of Manners
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Special to The New York Times
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WASHINGTON, May 3---Senator William Alden Smith, who conducted the Titanic inquiry, has received a letter from an indignant woman in this city who is much displeased over the Senator's manners. She is a woman prominent in the Women's Club and social welfare life of the city. The letter reads as follows:

Senator Smith:

My Dear Sir: It is reported that George Washington was riding with another man who expressed surprise because Gen. Washington raised his hat in response to salutation from an old colored man. He replied. "Would you not have me show as good manners as the darkey?"

The writer was reminded of this incident to-day when riding in the only elevator in the Capitol which the Senators have assigned to all the rest of the country, whose servants they are paid to be.

You remained in the elevator hat on head. The elevator man was not permitted to stop at the floor where I wished to get off, but must first take you up into the gallery, although the Senate was not in session.

I am told that you are a self-made man and very proud of what you have done in this line, but I would suggest that if you had had the assistance of some one acquainted with the ordinary rules of courtesy it would have been a great improvement and our country would not be suffering from the self-assigned privileges and defiance of laws of right and courtesy of the self-made men so largely forming the Senate---whose self-worship blinds them to the fact that they are amenable to the laws of humanity.

Permit me to state as a fact evidently unknown to you that oven in the United States Senate, constituted as it is, a gentleman removes his hat before ladies.

New Willard Hotel Washington, D. C., April 11, 1912

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Mark Baber

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Congressional Directory, 62d Congress, 3d Session, December 1912

WILLIAM ALDEN SMITH, Republican, of Grand Rapids, was born at Dowagiac,
Mich., May 12, 1859; received a common-school education; moved with his
parents to Grand Rapids in 1872; was appointed a page in the Michigan
House of Representatives in 1879; studied law, and was admitted to the
bar in 1883, and entered upon the general practice of his profession,
which was continued until his election as United States Senator; was
honored with the degree of master of arts by Dartmouth College in June,
1901; was elected to the Fifty-fourth, Fifty-fifth, Fifty-sixth,
Fifty-seventh, Fifty-eighth, and Fifty-ninth Congresses, and was
unopposed for a seventh term and unanimously reelected to the
Sixtieth Congress. In January, 1907, was elected to the United States
Senate to succeed Hon. R. A. Alger for the term beginning March 4, and
upon the death of Senator Alger he was elected to fill out the unexpired
term, taking his seat February 11. His term of service will expire March
3, 1913.