K. Smith, an outspoken, often controversial television newsman,
developed a career that spanned the decades from his sober analytic
foreign news reporting at CBS as one of "Murrow's Boys," to years
as co-anchor and commentator on ABC Evening News. Smith's
career also saw his transformation from CBS's "resident radical"
to his persona "Howard K. Agnew," a sobriquet granted by critics
for his support of conservative Republican Vice President Spiro
T. Agnew's bitter l969 attack on TV news.
l940 he joined United Press as their correspondent in London and
Copenhagen, and in l941 joined CBS news, where he replaced William
L. Shirer as CBS's Berlin correspondent. The last American correspondent
to leave Berlin after war was declared, he reached safety in Switzerland
with a manuscript that decribed conditions in Germany, which became
the basis for his best selling book Last Train from Berlin.
During the war Smith accompanied the Allied sweep through Belgium,
Holland and into Germany. He was on hand when the Germans surrendered
to the Russians under Marshal Zhukov in l945, and then covered the
Nuremburg trials. In l946 he succeeded Murrow as CBS's London correspondent,
where he spent the next eleven years covering Europe and the Middle
In l949 Smith published The State of Europe, advocating a
planned economy and the Welfare State for post-war Europe. Perhaps
for this reason, and to some extent because of his radical past,
he was named as a communist supporter in Red Channels, a
McCarthyite document purporting to uncover Communist conspiracy
in the media industries. He hardly suffered from these accusations,
however, since both Murrow and his overseas posting protected him.
Indeed in l957, Smith returned to the U.S. and in l960 was named
chief of the CBS Washington Bureau, where he hosted programs such
as The Great Challenge and Face the Nation, the Emmy
award winning CBS Reports documentary "The Population Explosion."
He served as the moderator of the first Kennedy-Nixon presidential
a Southerner, Smith was more and more drawn to the battle over civil
rights, and in l961 he narrated a CBS Reports special, "Who
Speaks for Birmingham?" His final commentary included a quote from
Edmund Burke, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is
for good men to do nothing." The quote was cut from the program.
In a showdown with the company chairman, William S.Paley, Smith
resigned after Paley suported his executives over Smith and his
Shortly thereafter Smith signed with ABC News and began doing a
weekly news show, Howard K. Smith--News and Comment. Smith's
program made creative use of film, graphics, and animation, and
explored controversial topics such as illegitmacy, disarmament,
physical fitness, the state of television and the "goof off Congress."
The program won critical approval and generally high ratings. However,
in l962 Smith was again the center of controversy over his broadcast
of a program entitled, "The Political Obituary of Richard Nixon."
This program followed Nixon's loss of the California Governer's
election in l962. In his review of Nixon's career, Smith included
an interview with Alger Hiss, whom Nixon, as a member of the House
Un-American Activities Committee, had investigated for his alleged
membership in and spying for the Communist Party, and whose conviction
for perjury in l950 had helped launch Nixon's national political
career. For balance Smith also included Murray Chotiner, a Nixon
supporter and campaign advisor. The result was an avalanche of telephone
calls to ABC criticizing Smith for permitting a convicted perjurer
and possible spy to appear on the program. Smith's sponsor quickly
ended support of the show and it was cancelled. Some historians
have contended that Smith's documentary enabled Nixon to regain
some of the sympathy he had lost after the disastrous temper tantrum
at his so-called "last press conference."
the cancellation of his show, Smith covered news for ABC-TV's daily
newscast and hosted the network's Sunday afternoon public affairs
program Issues and Answers. In l966 he became the host of the ABC
documentary program Scope. Until then Scope had been a general documentary
show dealing with many topics. In l966 the decision was made to
devote all its programs to the Vietnam War. Between l966 and its
cancellation in l968, the program dealt with seldom touched issues
of the war such as the experience of African American soldiers,
North Vietnam, and the air war.
many other newsman, who became progressively disillusioned with
the war, Smith became more and more hawkish as the war progressed.
Among other things he advocated bombing North Vietnam's dike system,
bombing Haiphong, and invading Laos and Cambodia. Indeed, in one
of his commentaries shortly after the Tet Offensive Smith said "There
exists only one real alternative: that is to escalate, but this
time on an overwhelming scale."
conservative drift on foreign affairs was also reflected in his
domestic views. He was vociferous in his support of Vice President
Spiro T. Agnew's l969 "Des Moines speech," in which the vice president
accused the TV networks producers, newscasters and commentators
of a highly selective and often biased presentation of the news.
Smith concurred and in salty language criticized network newsmen
as, among other things, "conformist," adhering to a liberal "party
line," for "stupidity," and, at least in some cases as lacking "the
depth of a saucer."
In March of l969 when Av Westin took over as head of ABC News he
immediately installed Smith as the co-anchor of ABC Evening News
with Frank Reynolds. In l971 he was teamed with the newly arrived
former CBS newsman Harry Reasoner, and given additional duties as
commentator. Smith's support of the Vietnam War and Vice President
Agnew's attacks on TV news stood him in good stead with President
Nixon, who granted him the unique privilege of an hour-long solo
interview in l971 titled, White House Conversation: The President
and Howard K. Smith. Despite this, when evidence grew of Nixon's
involvement in the Watergate scandal, Smith was the first major
TV commentator to call for his resignation.
l975 Smith relinguished his co-anchor role on the ABC Evening News
but stayed on as a commentator. Following the 1977 arrival of Roone
Arledge as head of ABC News, Smith found himself being used less
and less. In l979, he resigned from ABC, denouncing Arledge's evening
newscast featuring Peter Jennings, Max Robinson, Frank Reynolds,
and Barbara Walters as a "Punch and Judy Show." Since his retirement
Smith has been inactive in television and radio. Needless to say,
he was one of the last of a breed of TV newsmen who saw their role
as not merely reporting the news but analyzing and commenting on
Howard K. Smith
K. SMITH. Born in Ferriday, Louisiana, U.S.A., 12 May 1914.
Educated at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1936; Heidelberg
University, 1936; Rhodes Scholar, Merton College, Oxford, 1939.
Married: Benedicte Traberg Smith, 1942; one daughter and one son.
Worked as reporter for the New Orleans Item-Tribune, 1936-37; worked
for United Press International (UPI), Copenhagen, 1939; worked for
UPI, Berlin, 1940; correspondent, CBS News radio, Berlin, 1941;
European correspondent, CBS News, 1941-46; chief European correspondent,
CBS News, 1946-57; correspondent, Washington, D.C., 1957; chief
correspondent and general manager, CBS News, Washington, D.C., 1961;
reporter and anchor, ABC television and radio networks, 1961-75;
ABC news commentator, from 1975; host, ABC News Closeup,
from 1979. Recipient: Peabody Award, 1960; Emmy Award, 1961; Paul
White Memorial Award, 1961; DuPont Commentator Award, 1962; Overseas
Press Club Award, 1967; special congressional honoree for contribution
to journalism; numerous other awards.
Behind the News with Howard K. Smith
1960-81 Issues and Answers
1960-63 Face the Nation (moderator)
1960-62 Eyewitness to History (narrator)
1961-62 CBS Reports (narrator)
1962-63 Howard K. Smith--News and Comment
1966-68 ABC Scope
1969-75 ABC Evening News (co-anchor)
1979 ABC News Closeup
The Best Man (cameo), 1964.
Train From Berlin. New York: Knopf, 1942.
State of Europe. New York: Knopf, 1949.
D.C.: The Story of Our Nation's Capital. New York: Random House,
Leading Up to My Death: The Life of a Twentieth Century Reporter.
New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.
Bliss, Edward. Now the News: The Story of Broadcast Journalism.
New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.
thomas, editor. Television News Anchors: An Anthology of the
Major Figures and Issues in United States Network Reporting.
Jefferson City, North Carolina: McFarland, 1993.
Marc. The House that Roone Built: The Inside Story of ABC News.
Boston: Little, Brown, 1994.
also American Broadcasting
Edward R.; News,