Katharine Smith Reynolds

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Katharine Smith Reynolds
Katharine Smith Reynolds.jpg
Born(1880-11-17)November 17, 1880
Died(1924-05-23)May 23, 1924
Alma materSullins College
Known forReynolda House
Spouse(s)R. J. Reynolds (m. 1905–18)
J. Edward Johnston (m. 1921-1924)
ChildrenR.J. Reynolds Jr. (1906-1964)
Mary Reynolds Babcock (1908-1953)
Nancy Susan Reynolds (1910-1985)
Zachary Smith Reynolds (1911-1932)
J. Edward Johnston Jr. (1924-2005)

Katharine Smith Reynolds was a philanthropist, known for helping to design and build Reynolda House.


Early life[edit]

Katharine Smith was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina.[1] Katharine was the oldest of six children of a prosperous local businessman, Zachary T. Smith and his wife, Mary Susan Jackson. Katharine was well educated and attended the State Normal and Industrial School, now known as the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, in the fall of 1897.[2] After a typhoid epidemic broke out 1899, Katharine transferred to Sullins College in Bristol, Virginia where she graduated in 1902.[3] After returning home from graduation, Katharine worked for R. J. Reynolds, her first cousin once removed, as a secretary at The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The two eventually married in 1905.[1]

Reynolda House[edit]

Reynolda House, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was the home of Katharine and R.J. Reynolds. Involved in both the design and construction, Katharine envisioned a progressive, self sustaining country farm and estate built upon the selected 1,000 acre land outside of Winston-Salem.[3][4] Katharine hired landscape engineers Buckenham and Miller to draw up the master plan, renowned architect Charles Barton Keen of Philadelphia to design the central house or bungalow, and Thomas Sears to plan the gardens.[3] Construction took eight years and when the Reynolds family moved in December 1917, Reynolda was home to a farm complete with the latest in technology and agricultural practices, a dairy, recreational facilities, and a school.[4][5] After Katharine died in 1924, the estate was held in trust until 1934 when Mary, Katharine and R.J's daughter, and husband Charles Babcock Sr, acquired Reynolda House. They worked to modernize the estate and eventually donated much of the land until a museum was opened in 1967.[5][6]


As a woman of privilege and wealth, she sought social progress and progressive reform, as evidenced in her push for reforms in the tobacco factory. These included amenities such as hot lunches and water fountains to a nursery for working women.[6] In addition, she was an active member of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) which provided educational and recreational opportunities for young working women, and served as President of the local Winston-Salem chapter in 1917.[7] During World War I, through the R.J Reynolds tobacco company, she made monetary contributions to the Red Cross to aid in shelter,food, and supplies overseas as well as formed a local chapter with several other prominent women.[7] She was also active in the American Fund for the French Wounded, donating supplies and money and reviewing monthly reports and balance sheets for the organization as well as the Woman's Committee, serving as state chairman for a sub-organization of this war time committee.[7] Outside of her extensive organizational donations, she donated to many religious causes, helping build churches and supporting missionary activities and programs.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Katharine was married to tobacco tycoon R.J Reynolds from 1905 to 1918. The two had four children together: Richard Joshua Reynolds Jr. (April 4, 1906 - December 14, 1964), Mary Katharine Reynolds (August 8, 1908 - July 17, 1953), Nancy Susan Reynolds (February 5, 1910 - January 1985) and Zachary Smith Reynolds (November 5, 1911 - July 6, 1932).[6][8] During the completion of construction of Reynolda House in 1917, R.J became ill and died in July 1918.[8] Katharine would go on to marry school superintendent J. Edward Johnston in June 1921. The two had two children together, one stillborn daughter and J. Edward Johnston Jr. born May 20, 1924.[6] However, due to complications of an embolism caused by this childbirth, Katharine would pass away three days later at the age of 44 on May 23, 1924.[6]


An honors scholarship exists in her name at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Known as the Katharine Smith Reynolds Scholarship, it grants honor student recipients funding for community service involvement as well as internship and study abroad programs and opportunities.[9]

In 2016, the Kimpton Hotel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina opened a restaurant named after Katharine called The Katharine Brasserie and Bar.[10]


  1. ^ a b Gillespie, Michele (2014). Edith Vanderbilt and Katharine Smith Reynolds: The Public Lives of Progressive North Carolina's Wealthiest Women. Athens: The University of Georgia Press. pp. 337–358.
  2. ^ Gillespie, Michele (2012). Katharine and R.J. Reynolds: Partners of Fortune in the Making of the New South. University of Georgia Press.
  3. ^ a b c Smith, Margaret (July 1988). "Reynolda: A Rural Vision in an Industrializing South". The North Carolina Historical Review.
  4. ^ a b "Reynolda Farm," Splendid Country Estate of Mrs. R. J. Reynolds : Its Origin and Development, and the Aims of its Owner. Reynolda House Museum of American Art. 2014.
  5. ^ a b "The Reynolds Era". reynoldahouse.org.
  6. ^ a b c d e Zerwick, Phoebe (February 28, 2011). "The Women of the Reynolda House". ourstate.com.
  7. ^ a b c d See, Laurel (1992). Equalled By Few Others: Katharine Smith Reynolds. Winston-Salem,NC.
  8. ^ a b "Meet the People of Reynolda: Katharine Smith Reynolds". reynoldahouse.org.
  9. ^ "Available UNCG Merit Scholarships". 2012.
  10. ^ "Best restaurants in Winston-Salem NC: The Katharine Brasserie & Bar. KimptonHotels.com". kimptonhotels.com. Retrieved 2016-07-01.

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