Hugh Smith Remembrances Continue
Do you remember Hugh Smith?
A look at earlier postings on the blog shows many of you out there do remember Smith, the legendary Cronkite-like anchor who died Sunday morning of cancer. And while I'm not drowning in vitriol for mentioning the prostitution arrest which ended his career -- my colleague Walt Belcher seems to be taking the brunt for that -- I have already gotten a call from a reader who felt I didn't need to mention the issue in today's print edition.
(My defense: Smith left the air so long ago, even many people who were here don't remember what he did or how his career ended. Also, I remain a bit amazed at how the community still rallied around him. Any other man convicted of having sex with an underage teenager would be serving serious jail time, especially these days).
At any rate, here's a few more memories from people who knew him that didn't fit in my story.
Roy Leep, former WTVT anchor who remained friends with Smith after his arrest and 1991 resignation: "I told Hugh (when he was arrested) if there was anything I could do, I would do it. So his attorney asked me to walk into court (for the arraignment) with him. I walked in and walked out with him and I was ready to testify for him, but they never asked me. But I never really discussed it with him. To me, it was water over the dam. I don't think you'll find any of us without a flaw."
Leslie Spencer, Publix executive and former WTVT anchor: "He was the consummate newsman. He hired me right out of college and I worked extremely hard to prove that decision was a good one. He also promoted me to newscaster, and that made me the first full time woman newscaster in the area. And i have to thank him for that."
Frank Robertson, WTVT anchor who eventually succeeded Smith at the station's top male anchor: "When I was hired, it was clear to him there was a transition in mind. But he was very gracious about the whole process -- particularly when he didn't have to be. He was old school...loved covering politics. To me, he was always a gentlemen and a good guy."
Mike Clark, developer of the Big 13 tribute site and a technical employee at WTVT in the '70s: "Hugh was a towering figure...he could be intimidating, but he could also be endearing. I kept my distance...but when I was in the hospital with appendicitis, he came and visited me. How many big anchors would take time to do that?"
Warren Elly, longtime reporter at WTVT: "Hugh Smith had a strong impact on my life. I remember trying to decide whether to take a job in Baltimore, or here in Tampa. Then I met Hugh Smith. That was 25 years ago, and I will always be grateful that I was able to give Hugh my thanks personally before he passed away. He was a newsman's newsman, and he set very high standards for truth and fairness. Those demands made all of us better, and the television station's dominance during his tenure was proof of that. Good bye Boss, thanks so much for believing in me and giving me the chance that changed my life."
Mason Dixon, radio personality who hired Smith to do news after he left WTVT in 1991: "He was the consummate newsman; he shows up for work at 3 a.m and he's in coat and tie. To do a newsbreak at 5:30 a.m.! It took awhile before we got him to get in there in his shirt sleeves. He didn't like to ad lib so much...he was very much about the preparation. We treated him with respect and he did a great job for us."
Leep (at left) saw Smith in February, but declined to visit him once he went into hospice care: "I could tell his mind wasn't what it used to be, even when we talked...I chose to remember him as he was. We had a good talk before he went in and that's how I chose to remember him."