Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Legendary Tucson Journalist Jeff Smith Dies

Posted By on Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 6:01 PM

I blundered into the newspaper racket at a time when practically anybody with a pulse and a vocabulary in triple digits could get a job.

I barely could type my name, never had taken a journalism course, but I was willing to work for $120 a week (pretax) as long as they let me write news stories like novellas.

They did and I did and the rest was a happy tale interrupted periodically by a fit of principle — mine or theirs — or an offense-taking by a publisher or his wife.

—Jeff Smith, Tucson Citizen, Dec. 28, 2007

When I was a young paperboy folding my copies of the Tucson Citizen after I got home from school each day, I always scanned the paper to find Jeff Smith’s column. It was lightning in print, the kind of writing that leapt off the page and into your imagination. He was funny and irreverent and he raised hell.

I never imagined back in those days that I’d one day have the privilege of working with Smith at the Tucson Weekly. And I certainly never imagined I'd one day be writing Smith’s obit.

But here I am, saddened to report that one of Arizona’s journalistic legends has passed away. He was 67.

Details on Smith’s passing are sketchy as I write this, but his ex-wife, Barbara Smith, told me this afternoon that Jeff passed away sometime over the weekend.

As Barbara understands it, “He just sort of went to sleep. I think it was peaceful for him.”

Although they were divorced, Barbara remained friends with Jeff and said earlier today that in recent years, they had spoken almost daily.

Smith loved many things in life: His kids, Liza and Caleb. Motorcycles. Horses. Hard work. Cormac McCarthy. And, of course, guns.

Mark Kimble, a longtime friend and Smith’s editor at the Tucson Citizen, remembers that he was concerned after a New Mexico motorcycle accident left Smith in a wheelchair.

“After his motorcycle accident, I was quite worried about what would become of him,” Kimble says. “But he was basically the same energetic, enthusiastic person he was before. As he always said, he was just a few feet shorter.”

Kimble calls Smith “an extremely gifted writer.”

“He loved Southern Arizona very much and that’s what he wanted to write about more than anything,” Kimble says. “He had a house that he built, mostly by hand, himself, in Patagonia, out in the middle of nowhere, and he was happiest just being there.”

Former Tucson Weekly editor and publisher Doug Biggers, who hired Smith as a columnist in the mid-’80s, calls Smith “one of the best writers the Weekly ever published.”

“He was a legend in Tucson journalism,” Biggers says.

We'll have more on Smith in the days to come, but you can peruse his Tucson Weekly columns here and his Tucson Citizen columns here.

Comments (22)

Showing 1-22 of 22

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-22 of 22

Add a comment

Previously in the Range

More by Jim Nintzel

  • Zona Politics: Your Primary Election Round-Up!

    • Aug 27, 2016
  • The Skinny

    Secret emails, fear of a bugged office, 911 calls: the greatest hits of Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • The Skinny

    Kirkpatrick continues her effort to link McCain to Trump, while McCain links Kirkpatrick to Hillary.
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • More »

Staff Pick

Divorce Recovery 1 Support Group (8 weeks)

Separating, divorcing or being divorced can be a challenging and often overwhelming experience. If you are confused… More

@ St. Mark's United Methodist Church Thursdays, 7-8:30 p.m. Continues through Sept. 22 1431 West Magee Rd.

» More Picks

Submit an Event Listing

Popular Content

  1. Zona Politics: Your Primary Election Round-Up! (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  2. World View Case Moves Forward After Motion Denied (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  3. Casa Video Top 10 (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  4. Silicon Valley Businesses Move to Phoenix—Because It's Cheaper (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)
  5. Quick Bites: How Do Ya Like Them Apples? (The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch)

© 2016 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation