Gerald L. K. Smith
Gerald L. K. Smith
Gerald Lyman Kenneth Smith
February 27, 1898
|Died||April 15, 1976(aged 78)|
|Parent(s)||Sarah and Lyman Z. Smith|
Gerald Lyman Kenneth Smith (February 27, 1898 – April 15, 1976) was an American clergyman and far-right political organizer, who became a leader of the Share Our Wealth movement during the Great Depression and later founded the Christian Nationalist Crusade. He founded the America First Party in 1943, for which he was a presidential candidate in 1944.
Early life and family
He was born in Pardeeville, Wisconsin, on February 27, 1898, to Sarah and Lyman Z. Smith. He had one sister. The family moved, and the children grew up in Viroqua, Wisconsin. He graduated from Valparaiso University in Indiana in 1918 with a degree in biblical studies.
The descendant of three generations of Disciples of Christ ministers, he followed his father into the ministry, becoming ordained in 1916. He first ministered in the Midwest: Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.
Smith married Elna Sorenson in 1922. They adopted their only child, whom they named Gerald L. K. Smith Jr.
Louisiana and politics
Smith moved his family to Louisiana in 1928 because his wife contracted tuberculosis, and facilities in Shreveport had a good reputation for helping those with the disease. Smith served as a minister in Shreveport, making radio broadcasts attacking local utility companies and corruption, while supporting trade unions.
Smith met Governor Huey P. Long in 1929 and became his national organizer during the Great Depression, when Long launched the Share Our Wealth society. This movement proposed minimum and maximum limits on household wealth and income. Smith resigned his ministry to work full-time recruiting members to the society. In describing his campaign philosophy, Smith wrote that "in order to succeed, a mass movement must be superficial for quick appeal, fundamental for permanence, dogmatic for certainty, and practical for workability."
After Long was assassinated in 1935, Smith directed the society for a short time. He became an ally of Francis Townsend, Father Charles Coughlin and Huey Long's followers in forming the Union Party. It nominated William Lemke as its presidential candidate in the 1936 election.
In the fall of 1936, Smith joined the former short-term Governor James A. Noe in a tour of Louisiana in which the two railed against Governor Richard Leche's sales tax on luxury items, revenue that the governor claimed was essential for the state's share of the new Social Security program. Noe charged that Leche "sold out to Roosevelt to finance Social Security.
Unlike Long, who had been relatively tolerant on racial issues, Smith took the Share Our Wealth movement in the direction of white supremacy. As European tensions rose with the ascendancy of the Nazi Party in Germany, Smith tried to form an alliance with the non-interventionist America First Committee, but did not succeed.
In 1943, Smith formed the America First Party, essentially appropriating the name. He became a member of William Dudley Pelley's pro-Nazi Silver Shirts organization, which was patterned after Hitler's brown shirts.
Having moved to Michigan, Smith ran for the United States Senate as a Republican from there, but lost in the primary. He ran as the America First Party candidate in the 1944 Presidential election, winning 1,781 votes (1530 in Michigan, 281 in Texas). In 1948, with running mate Harry Romer on the Christian Nationalist Party ticket, he received 48 votes. Smith's only other run for the presidency was in 1956, when he received eight write-in votes in California.
After World War II, Smith continued to be active on the political right. He lobbied for decades for the release of all Nazi war criminals convicted at the Nuremberg Trials. Due to his activities, he was shunned by most politicians, including conservative figures such as Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who distanced his States' Rights Democratic Party from Smith.
In the early 1950s, at the time of the appointment of Anna M. Rosenberg as Assistant Secretary of Defense, the Anti-Defamation League published an article that attributed the attacks on Rosenberg's loyalty to "professional anti-Semites and lunatic nationalists", including the "Jew-baiting cabal of John Rankin, Benjamin Freedman and Gerald Smith".
In 1956, Smith joined a strong campaign against the Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act. He was among such opponents as those who nicknamed it the "Siberia Bill" and denounced it as being part of a communist plot to hospitalize and brainwash Americans. It was a bipartisan, federal effort to improve mental health care for residents of Alaska, which was still a territory, and its passage was aided by the support of the conservative senator Barry Goldwater.
In 1959, the Cross and the Flag, the Christian Nationalist Crusade's magazine, claimed that six million Jews were not killed in death camps in Europe during World War II but instead immigrated to the United States during the war.
Smith was the originator of the following quotation, which is often wrongly attributed to others, in particular Baptist pastor, author and political commentator, Dr Adrian Rogers, who quoted it in a sermon without attribution.
- "You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom."
- "What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving."
- "The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else."
- "When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation."
- "You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."
He eventually moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where he bought and renovated a mansion as a retirement home. In 1964, he began construction of a planned religious theme park on his own property, to be called "Sacred Projects". Smith's biographer, Glen Jeansonne, in Gerald L. K. Smith: Minister of Hate, says that Smith only had $5,000 to his name at the end of 1963 and yet raised $1,000,000 by the spring of 1964 to commission and construct the "Christ of the Ozarks" project.
Although the park was never fully developed, in 1966 the centerpiece, the Christ of the Ozarks statue, was completed on Magnetic Mountain at an elevation of 1,500 feet, from where it overlooked the town. Emmet Sullivan, the sculptor, had worked under Gutzon Borglum as one of the sculptors of Mount Rushmore.
Smith's original plans were for a life-size recreation of ancient Jerusalem in the hills near Eureka Springs; no construction of this portion took place. He did initiate an annual outdoor Passion Play, inspired by another passion play which is performed every ten years in the town of Oberammergau, Germany. It is staged in an amphitheater located near the statue for several nights each week from late April through late October.
- Holocaust denial
- Meade McClanahan, Los Angeles City Council member recalled from office because of his association with Smith, 1946
- 1948 United States presidential election
- "Gerald Lyman Kenneth Smith (1898-1976)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. Retrieved December 26, 2009.
- Dart, John (December 23, 1977). "Founded by Gerald L. K. Smith". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 26, 2009.
The anti-Jewish Christian Nationalist Crusade, founded by the late Gerald L. K. Smith and based in Glendale since 1953, is being dissolved, it was confirmed Thursday.
- White, Richard D. (2006). Kingfish, The Reign of Huey P. Long. New York: Random House. p. 199. ISBN 1-4000-6354-X.
- "Smith, Noe to Speak Here Saturday: Pair Will Stop in Minden in Tour of State", Minden Signal-Tribune, October 20, 1936, p. 1
- Albert E. Kahn and M. Sayers. The Plot against the Peace: A Warning to the Nation!. 1st ed. New York: Dial Press, 1945, p. 196. "... The Cross and the Flag [was] a propaganda magazine which was soon to be named by the Department of Justice as an agency used in a conspiracy to undermine the morale of the United States armed forces. The Cross and the Flag was published in Detroit by ex-Silver Shirter No. 3223, Gerald L. K. Smith."
- "US President National Vote". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved May 8, 2009.
- Stuart Svonkin, Jews Against Prejudice: American Jews and the Fight for Civil Liberties, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999, p 120
- "Holocaust Denial Timeline". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Archived from the original on April 12, 2015. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
- Reed, Roy (July 27, 1972). "Hippies and Gerald L. K. Smith Make Ozark Resort Town a Model of Coexistence; Hippies and Gerald L. K. Smith Coexist in an Ozark Resort Town". The New York Times. Retrieved December 26, 2009.
On one page of Down Home, the town's new underground newspaper, an article announced the birth of a baby to a popular couple in the "freak" community.
- Associated Press (April 16, 1976). "Gerald L.K. Smith Dead. Anti-Communist Crusader". The New York Times. Retrieved December 26, 2009.
Gerald L.K. Smith, the right-Wing Arkansas preacher who once backed Gov. Huey P. Long of Louisiana for President, died today of complications from pneumonia. He was 78 years old.
- Thackrey Jr, Ted (April 16, 1976). "Reverend Gerald L.K. Smith, 78, Dies in Glendale. Political Orator Was Damned, Revered". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 26, 2009.
Gerald L.K. Smith, the fiery orator denounced by many as a hate-mongering bigot--and revered by others as a Christian patriot died Thursday in Glendale.
- Jeansonne, Glen (Winter 2002). "Gerald L. K. Smith" (PDF). Wisconsin Magazine of History (vol. 86, no. 2): 18–29.
- Jeansonne, Glen. Gerald L.K. Smith: Minister of Hate, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988/1997.
- Jeansonne, Glen. "Gerald L. K. Smith: From Wisconsin Roots to National Notoriety", Wisconsin Magazine of History, vol. 86, no. 2 (Winter 2002-03), pp. 18–29.
- Ribuffo, Leo P. The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right From the Great Depression to the Cold War, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983.
- Gerald L. K. Smith at Find a Grave
- Gerald L K Smith in 1956
- "Gerald Lyman Kenneth Smith", Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture
- Gerald L.K. Smith, American Jewish Committee, 1953
- The official website for Gerald L. K. Smith dedicated to the memory of Gerald L. K. Smith
- FBI files on Gerald L.K. Smith, obtained under the FOIA and hosted at the Internet Archive: