Sam was born in Carbondale on June 17, 1927 to the late L.M. and Grace Selby Smith. He was the youngest of a lively group of 10 children — eight boys and two girls — who grew up on an orchard farm outside the Village of Ozark in southern Illinois during the Great Depression and the years before World War II.
Sam was a graduate of the University of Illinois, where he majored in journalism, and he trained as a Navy pilot during the war; one of his brothers, Daniel, lost his life in that conflict.
Sam met Louise Beltz, who was to become his wife, in high school in Harrisburg. After he graduated from the University of Illinois, they married — a match that was to last for 64 years until his death. Sam started his journalism career as a reporter at the Harrisburg Daily Register. Then he and Louise moved around for a few years in southern Illinois and Indiana as Sam worked for several different newspapers. The Smiths also began their family, which eventually was to number five children.
In 1957, Sam became the editor and part owner of The Metropolis News, a weekly newspaper published in the Ohio River town of Metropolis. He held this position for almost two decades, during what in hindsight were the glory days of local American newspapers.
He earned many awards for himself as well as the paper, including the Golden Dozen Editorial Award from the International Association of Newspaper Editors in 1971 and the SIU Carbondale School of Journalism Master Editor Award in 1972. Sam rose to become president of the Southern Illinois Editorial Association and a member of the board of directors of the Illinois Press Association and the National Newspaper Association.
Working with other Metropolis businessmen in the early 1970s, Sam encouraged Metropolis to call itself “The Home of Superman,” and a local museum was opened in honor of the comic book hero. The effort boosted tourism and made national headlines. Sam’s special contribution was to change the name of the newspaper to The Metropolis Planet.
Sam joined SIUE on Feb. 19, 1973, as assistant director of the University News Services. Within two years, he was named director. He remained in that position until he retired in 1998, operating as spokesman for the university as it grew steadily in size and influence.
Sam was a devoted husband and father. He is survived by his loving wife Louise; their five children, Sharon E. Smith of Metropolis; Susan J. Cornwell of Washington, D.C.; Stephen S. Smith of Los Angeles, Calif.; Daniel R. Smith of Phoenix, Ariz.; and Michael J. Smith of Akron, Ohio; Sam’s older brother Stephen J. Smith of Dallas, Texas; five grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and a vast extended family with many cousins, nieces and nephews. Sam was preceded in death by his parents, as well as six brothers and two sisters.
Funeral service was held Saturday, Sept. 28 at First Baptist Church, Edwardsville. Burial followed at Sunset Hill cemetery.
Sunset Hill Funeral Home in Glen Carbon was in charge of arrangements.
Memorials may be made to the First Baptist Church of Edwardsville, 534 St. Louis St., Edwardsville, IL 62025.