b. 1912 – Williamson County, Texas
After graduating from Lamesa High School and Texas Technological College, Smith became involved with the movie theater business and real estate enterprises in Lubbock. A conservative Democrat, he served three terms in the Texas House before being elected to the Texas Senate in 1956. In 1962 he was elected lieutenant governor.
Known for his strong work ethic, his corny sense of humor, and his polka dot neckties, Smith ran for governor when Connally chose not to seek re-election. He claimed he started wearing polka dot ties when Governor Daniel said he needed to do something to stand out in a crowd and sent campaign letters to 47,000 Texas families named Smith with the question, “Don’t you think it is about time one of us was governor?”
Smith was the first lieutenant governor and the first West Texan to be directly elected governor. He supported a ten-year pay raise program for teachers. After losing the 1972 election to Dolph Briscoe and attempting a comeback in 1978, he retired from politics. Governor Clements appointed him to the Texas College and University Coordinating Board, which he chaired.