Richard Norton Smith

Monday, August 8, 2019

How Do You Get to Mt. Rushmore: Can Presidential Character be Set in Stone?

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Author and presidential historian Richard Norton Smith is a nationally recognized authority on the American presidency and a familiar face to viewers of C-SPAN and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Following graduation from Harvard in 1975, he worked as a White House intern and a speech writer for Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke. In 1979 he went to work for Senator Bob Dole, with whom he collaborated on several volumes of autobiography and political humor.

Smith’s first major book, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times, was a finalist for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize. He also wrote An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover, The Harvard Century: The Making of a University to a Nation and Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation. His book The Colonel: The Life and Legend of Robert R. McCormick received the prestigious Goldsmith Prize awarded by Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School, and was described by Hilton Kramer as “the best book ever written about the press.” On His Own Terms, Smith’s account of the monumental life of Nelson Rockefeller, was described by Douglas Brinkley as “one of the greatest cradle to grave biographies written in the past 50 years.”

Smith has served as director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in Iowa; the Dwight D. Eisenhower Center in Kansas; the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and the Reagan Center for Public Affairs in California; the Gerald R. Ford Museum and Library in Michigan; the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas; and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. He delivered the final eulogy at Gerald Ford’s Michigan funeral, a role he repeated at Betty Ford’s request when she was laid to rest beside her husband in 2011. And in 2009, Smith was invited to address Congress on the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.