Merriman Smith

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Albert Merriman Smith (February 10, 1913 – April 13, 1970) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning wire service reporter, notably serving as White House correspondent for United Press International and its predecessor, United Press.

Life and career[edit]

Smith was born in Savannah, Georgia. Known by his middle name (and his nickname, "Smitty"), Smith covered US presidents from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Richard Nixon and originated the practice of closing presidential news conferences with "Thank You, Mr. President," which was the title of his 1946 book, written during his coverage of the Harry Truman administration.[1] That honor, accorded the senior wire service reporter present at presidential news conferences, became more popularly known when it was continued by Smith's UPI colleague Helen Thomas.[2]

Smith began covering the White House in 1940. After the United States entered the Second World War, he was designated as one of the wire service reporters to follow the president on all his travels. They agreed for security purposes not to file their stories until after each trip had ended. Consequently, Smith was in Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945, and filed one of the first reports on the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[3] In 1964, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. He was the first to publicly use the term "grassy knoll" regarding the assassination.[4]

Smith was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967.

In the 1960s, Smith was a frequent guest on television interview programs hosted by Jack Paar and Merv Griffin.

Near the end of the novel Seven Days in May, by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II, Smith is thinly disguised as a White House reporter nicknamed "Milky."


Despondent over the death of his son in the Vietnam War, Smith died at his home in Washington, D.C., from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Although he never served in the military himself, his grave is in Section 32 of Arlington National Cemetery next to his son's, by special permission of the Commanding General of the Military District of Washington.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Joe Alex Morris (1957). "Deadline Every Minute The Story Of The United Press". 
  2. ^ "Helen Thomas honored". The Pittsburgh Press. Google News Archive. June 24, 1985. p. A2. 
  3. ^ Donald A. Ritchie (2005), Reporting from Washington: The History of the Washington Press Corps, p. 121.
  4. ^ Pages documenting this are held by Gary Mack, the curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

External links[edit]