William Alden Smith Forgotten Hero

Don Tweed

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Mar 30, 2006
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I was in Grand Rapids,Michigan a few years ago on business and was shocked to find there was hardly any recognition of this man in the city he helped so much! Anyone know why?
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Smith seems to have just faded from view after he left politics. He became 'more isolated and conservative' with age but continued in business and occasionally made political speeches. After one of these, he suffered a heart attack and died on October 11, 1932. He was praised at the time for his honesty and friendliness but was soon forgotten.

Part of the reason may be that there is no biography of Smith. There is Wyn Craig Wade's book about his Titanic inquiry and Wyn has also written articles about him. Americans might be able to say whether this forgetfulness is par for the course. Do American states generally remember their Senators from 1912?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
Not that I'm aware of Dave. Here in South Carolina, just about everybody knows who Strom Thurmond and Ernest Hollings is, but I wouldn't place any bets on them being widely remembered after they're gone from the scene. I doubt that a lot of people even know who their predeccessors were or even cares.

In my country, when a politician leaves office, the usual crowd will step up to honour them, but most everyone else seems to say "Good riddence!"

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

John M. Feeney

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Sep 20, 2000
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Dave:

Despite the fact that it's the Legislators -- Senators and Congressmen -- that actually propose and pass the laws that bring about change, it's the Executive branch of government (at all levels) in the U.S. that tends to get all the recognition. That's definitely the "limelight" position here.

So Presidents, Governors, Mayors -- few of whom have any real autonomy (except in crisis situations) -- tend to reap the laurels for "their" administration's accomplishments (and the condemnation for its failures), while the legislative branch, which does the bulk of the "legwork", usually goes unheralded.

(But note: Those who do achieve significant notoriety in Congress often tend to set their sights on the Presidency, where they'll ultimately be remembered for things they might have had very little direct control over, and forgotten for things they may have had had immense personal involvement with [while still legislators].) ;^)

Of course, considering the fact that most Americans probably couldn't tell you who the *President* was in 1912, Smith's receding into relative obscurity seems fairly par for the course.

Cheers,
John
 

Tracy Smith

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Apr 20, 2012
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Mike, I imagine that Strom Thurmond will be remembered longer than most, mainly because he ran for President in 1948 on a third party ticket, and for also being the oldest Senator on record, with him turning 100 this year.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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I thought it might be as you have described. It's much the same here. Some Prime Ministers are remembered but Members of Parliament are usually forgotten by the general public.

Even I've heard of Strom Thurmond. He's somebody that you wouldn't see here. We put them out to grass at around 60+.

I wonder if the best remembered member of Smith's committee might be the racist Furnifold Simmons. I seem to have no trouble finding material about him.
 

John M. Feeney

Senior Member
Sep 20, 2000
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Yikes! I was going to say something in jest about Strom Thurmond probably knowing Taft personally. But then, it could be true!

(Must be that spritely young bride that kept him in shape.) ;^)

Interestingly, there's even further stratification of fame *within* the Legislature. The Senate maintains a full online file of individual (albeit brief) biographies for every Senator since Day One. But just try to locate significant information about a prior "Congressman" -- a member of the House of Representatives -- and you'll be pulling out large amounts of hair!

When I went trying to track down "Senator" Cary (as described in "Titanic Voices"; he was in fact not a Senator at all, but a Congressman), the *best* information I found was actually on an independent "Famous Orphans" web page. At the Congressional web site, you'd barely know he existed!

Cheers,
John