On David Bruce Smith, Lewis Mumford and sons vs. fathers

“The commonest axiom of history is that every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.” So wrote Lewis Mumford, a deity in fields ranging from urban studies to architectural and art criticism. And that’s the epigraph at the front of Conversations with Papa Charlie: A Memory of Charles E. Smith, by […]

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Google neighbors: A few words on David Bruce Smith and me

“Google neighbors”—is there such a thing? Perhaps. The Solomon Scandals Web site uses the words “David Bruce Smith” only once. He’s simply the son of the late Robert H. Smith and the grandson of Charles E. Smith, the builder whose life partly inspired my novel. A rather tenuous connection in many respects. But some Googlers […]

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A tale of two obituaries—plus wisdom from J.Y. Smith, first official editor of the W. Post obit desk

You regulars already know my complaint. For whatever the reason, Washington philanthropist Robert H. Smith enjoyed a free ride from the Post’s usually stellar obituary desk as well as from the editorial page. His family’s paid obit at Legacy.com was rather redundant. Ahead I’ll compare the Smith encomia with a more balanced write-up of Indianapolis […]

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Robert H. Smith death editorial—and the need for the Washington Post to tell the whole story

Robert H. Smith, philanthropist and Crystal City developer, gets another paean today from the Washington Post—this time an editorial, which follows an obituary of more than 1,100 words. The Post appropriately notes Smith’s donations of “hundreds of millions of dollars to universities, the arts, historic sites and civic activities.” Given his significance, then, perhaps the […]

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When you die, how many people will sign your Legacy.com page? Six for Robert Smith, so far

Why all the old jokes about unlucky newspaper people being condemned to the obituary desk? I can understand when the job is simply one of mere hackery. But the best obituaries are like polished feature stories. Fascinated by the genre, I even began The Solomon Scandals with an obit mention. Not everyone makes the news […]

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Robert Smith’s death as the W. Post covered it: Nothing on Skyline or secret Ribicoff investment

How did the sprawling Crystal City complex, near Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, get its name? In the 1960s, developer Robert H. Smith dressed up his first apartment building there with a chandelier in the lobby, and soon the name spread to other Smith properties. It was, as I see it, a perfect example of […]

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Robert H. Smith dead: Son of the builder who helped inspire the Solomon character

Update, 2:05 p.m., Dec. 31, 2009: Just-posted commentary on the Washington Post’s less-than-complete obit of Robert Smith. – D.R. Robert H. Smith, a Washington philanthropist and developer, died yesterday, and the Washington Business Journal already has run his obituary, with another coming shortly from the Washington Post. He will be most remembered for the Crystal […]

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