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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Grady Smoot has had a hand in a lot of local history

  • There’s something to be said for living a clean life, and  Joseph Grady Smoot, Pittsburg State University vice president emeritus, is just the one to say it.

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  • There’s something to be said for living a clean life, and  Joseph Grady Smoot, Pittsburg State University vice president emeritus, is just the one to say it.
    He can look back on 81 years of accomplishments, some of which are now important parts of the  Pittsburg community.
    “I’m doing fairly well at 81,” said Smoot, now a Carrington Place resident. “I’ve lived a clean life, never drank, never smoke and never said a word I wouldn’t say in front of my mother. My hero is Thomas Jefferson.”
    He retired at 75.
    “I took a cruise through the Panama Canal and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on my  75th birthday with my brother-in-law,” he said.
    “I’ve been on all seven continents, 103 countries, all 10 Canadian provinces and all 50 states. I’ve walked on the Great Wall of China, stood by Victoria Falls and climbed Mount Kenya. I’m sure there are places I’d like to go that I haven been to, but I don’t sit around thinking about them."
    Smoot was born in Winterhaven, Fla. His father died when he was 2. His mother remarried and moved to Tennessee.
    “I grew up on a Tennessee farm,” he said. “I graduated from Tullahoma High School in 1950. We have a reunion every year and I go.”
    President of his class, Smoot graduated summa cum laude from Southern College in Chattanooga and earned a doctorate in 18th century American studies from the University of Kentucky.
    He has nearly 700 publications to his credit, and during his studies at Kentucky published an article in the “New England Quarterly” about William Stephen Potts, who pastored the Second Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.
    While on a horseback trip through the south, Potts stopped in at the White House to see John Quincy Adams, who was tidying up some papers in the East Room. Smoot noted Potts’ observations about the East Room in his article.
    When First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was attempting to restore a more historic sense to the White House, her staff found his article and asked if he would come and consult with her.
    “I was with Mrs. Kennedy for 20 or 25 minutes,” he said. “She was very charming.”
    He also met Presidents Gerald Ford, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ronald and Nancy Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
    Before coming to Pittsburg in 1984, Smoot taught at Columbia Union College and was dean of graduate studies, vice president for academic affairs and later president at Andrews University. He held the  academic rank of history professor at Andrews from 1968 to 1983.
    Smoot is also recognized as an outstanding fundraiser for worthy projects.
    “I’ve raised probably $300 million in my life,” he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Smoot is credited with organizing the Pittsburg State University Foundation, establishing public radio station KRPS, founding the University Magazine, creating a substantial endowment fund for university operations and raising $6 million for the Kansas  Technology Center at PSU.
    Gen. Jim AuBuchon, a prime mover behind the PSU Veterans Memorial, credits Smoot with being the inspiration behind the memorial.
    “In 1996, when I came over to the Office of Development from Student Affairs, one of the first things Grady Smoot said to me was that we needed to build a veterans memorial on campus,” AuBuchon said in an interview several years ago.
    He also became a founder of the Pittsburg Public Library Foundation and said that he takes great satisfaction in that. More recently, Smoot served as a consultant for the capital campaign of the Stilwell Heritage and Educational Foundation.
    In gratitude for his help, the hotel named a room of historic treasures the Joseph Grady Smoot Historic Room.
    “I didn’t really deserve that, but I’ve got it,” Smoot said.
    He’s had other honors, including being listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World, but doesn’t care to dwell on those, either.
    “I’m a great believer in philanthropy and doing things for people,” he said. “It’s been my life.”
    His wife, Irma Jean, died in 1999.
    “I have a wonderful son, Christopher,” Smoot said.
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