Smith, Gerald L. K. (Gerald Lyman Kenneth), 1898-
Gerald Lyman Kenneth Smith was born February 27, 1898 in Pardeeville, Wisconsin. Called to the ministry like his father, Lyman Z. Smith, and other members of his family before him, Smith attended Valparaiso University and Butler University in Indiana, and was then ordained a minister of the Disciples of Christ. In 1922, Smith married Elna Marion Sorenson, who came to be an active and important co-worker in the causes of her husband.
During his early ministry, Smith held pastorates in Indianapolis, Indiana and in Shreveport, Louisiana. While in Louisiana, Smith became a close friend and supporter of Governor and later U.S. Senator, Huey Long. A noted orator, Smith soon became a major spokesman for Long's "Share the Wealth" Program, and was called upon to conduct the funeral service for Long following his assassination in 1935. During the 1936 election campaign, Smith was associated with Father Coughlin and Francis Townsend in the work of the Union Party.
Even before election day, Smith had started to organize the Committee of 1,000,000, though it was not formally launched until March 1937. Formed as a nationalist front against the spread of communism, the Committee was isolationist, anti-union, and bitterly critical of the Roosevelt New Deal. In these years before World War II, Smith was searching for a base. He traveled about the country speaking whenever he could, and refining his image as a self-proclaimed crusader against communism and the C.I.O. In 1939, he began a series of broadcasts over WJR in Detroit, a powerful Midwestern station. Because of the receptiveness of this audience, some of whom were his larger financial backers, Smith decided to locate permanently in Detroit, moving there sometime that same year.
Smith worked with the Committee of 1,000,000 into the early 1940's. In April 1942, he published the first issue of the Cross and the Flag which came to be the principal means by which he spread his ideological message. Also in 1942, Smith ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for the United States Senate from Michigan. Undaunted by the returns, he ran as an independent in the fall election, but was again badly defeated.
In January 1943, Smith established the America First Party with the avowed purpose to provide an outlet for voters who might be dissatisfied with the candidates selected by the major parties in the 1944 national election. As Smith explained it, he hoped that his party would never have to go on the ballot, but since the Democrats and Republicans had already betrayed him and his followers in 1940 when they nominated "internationalists," he did not want them to be without recourse again. Smith did what he could to influence the choices of the major party conventions in 1944, but he was dissatisfied with Dewey and unalterably opposed to Roosevelt, so he felt compelled to run for president himself on the America First ticket.
After the war, about 1946, Smith formed the Christian Nationalist Crusade, a federation of over 60 right wing organizations, all with the purpose of fighting communism and upholding the ideals of "Christian Americanism." Smith was made national director of the CNC which was then headquartered in Detroit. In 1947, he moved his base of operation from Detroit to St. Louis. He himself then decided to live in Tulsa.
The Christian Nationalist Crusade, like most of Smith's other ideas, was based upon fear of a changing world and hatred of the supposed enemies of American and Christianity. Under the auspices of the CNC, Smith championed a variety of conservative and anti-communist causes. The CNC sponsored numerous meetings, distributed literature, organized petition campaigns, and lent their organizational skills to political candidates whose positions most resembled their own views. In 1952, Smith actively supported the candidacy of Douglas MacArthur for president. In the 1960's, he became a supporter of George Wallace.
Despite its St. Louis base, some of the most important activities and conventions of the CNC were centered in California, where Smith found some of his most influential backers. Thus, in 1953, Smith moved to Los Angeles, California. He and the CNC stayed there nearly twenty years, then moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Smith devoted the final years of his life to a number of religiously-oriented projects. One was the management of a full-scale Passion Play presented each year in Eureka Springs. Another was the completion of a towering Christ of the Ozarks statue for which Smith had helped to raise the money. Other plans for Eureka Springs stalled with his death on April 15, 1976.
From the guide to the Gerald L. K. Smith Papers, 1922-1976, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)
|referencedIn||Dept. of Journalism (University of Michigan) research papers, 1967-1978||Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan|
|creatorOf||Gerald L. K. Smith Papers, 1922-1976||Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan|
|referencedIn||Prentiss Marsh Brown Papers, 1902-1973||Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan|
|referencedIn||Party records., 1914-1980.||Minnesota Historical Society.|
|referencedIn||Carlton F. Wells papers, 1910-1994||Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan|
|referencedIn||Council records., 1922-1974 (bulk 1945-1970).||Minnesota Historical Society.|
|referencedIn||Arthur W. Stace papers, 1927-1950||Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan|
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Eureka Springs (Ark.)|