Dan Smoot

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Howard Drummond "Dan" Smoot​

(Former FBI agent, publisher of
anti-communist newsletter from
1957 to 1971, and conservative
political journalist and activist)

Political party Independent

Born October 5, 2013​
East Prairie, Mississippi County, Missouri, USA​
Died July 24, 2003 (aged 89)​
Tyler, Texas
Spouse (1) Mabeth Evans Smoot (married c. 1933; divorced)​

(2) Virginia McKnight Erwin Smoot (married at time of her death in 1996)

Two sons from first marriage:
Bernard Evans Smoot
Lawrence Edward Smoot​

Parents:
William Bernard "Bernie" and Dora Allbright Smoot​

Alma mater:
Southern Methodist University
Harvard University

Howard Drummond Smoot, known as Dan Smoot (October 5, 1913 – July 21, 2003), was a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and a conservative political activist. From 1957 to 1971, he published The Dan Smoot Report. a newsletter which chronicled alleged communist infiltration in various sectors of American government and society.

Background

Smoot was born into poverty in a log cabin in East Prairie in Mississippi County in southeastern Missouri, to William Bernard "Bernie" Smoot (died 1924), a sharecropper, and the former Dora E. Allbright (born 1892).[1] As a six-year-old, Dan picked and hoed cotton and cultivated corn with a one-mule plow at the age of eight. He had a sister, Virginia Ruth, and a brother, Jewell Martin Smoot (1911-2003), who predeceased his brother by only ten days.[2] Despite the lack of material resources, Bernie Smoot taught young Dan how to read the classics.​

When he was orphaned at eleven, Dan was sent to live with an uncle who forbade scholarly pursuits. After three years, he ran away from the uncle's home at the age of fourteen with a dime in his pocket but determined to make a life of his own. In 1933 or 1934, at the age of twenty, Smoot married Mabeth Bertha "Betty" Evans, his 16-year-old childhood sweetheart, who became the mother of his two sons, Bernard Evans Smoot (1943-2007), and Lawrence Edward "Larry" Smoot (born 1953), both of whom were born in Dallas, Texas.[3] Later divorced, he married his secretary, Virginia McKnight Erwin (1914-1996), known as "Gin" Smoot, who preceded him in death by some seven years.​ She is interred at Holly Tree Cemetery in Hawkins in Wood County, Texas,[4] but there is no indication whether Smoot is also buried at the same cemetery.

​Relocated to Dallas, Smoot graduated from high school and attended Southern Methodist University in University Park near Dallas, and later Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from which he dropped out prior to receiving a PhD in American Civilization to enter the United States Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor by the empire of Japan. However, the Army rejected Smoot because of his flat feet.[5]

Departure from the FBI

Smoot instead became an FBI agent, a position he held until 1951, when he resigned for what he cited as professional reasons: namely, the desire to go into the field of political pamphleteering and commentary.​ Rather than accept assignment to the FBI office in Savannah, Georgia, Smoot resigned in part because he wanted to rear his family in the Dallas area. Smoot said that several fellow agents had complained to him about the supervisor's management decisions. Smoot said that he related to the inspector what he had heard from colleagues. Then, according to Smoot, the colleagues would not back up what they had told Smoot. The supervisor hence believed that Smoot had been disloyal to him.​

After his FBI tenure, Smoot became a commentator and began producing Facts Forum newsletters in conjunction with Dallas oil billionaire H. L. Hunt. His salary doubled with his new assignment. From 1953 to 1954, Facts Forum was the source for the ABC public affairs television series, Answers for Americans.[6]

In 1954, Medford Bryan Evans (1907-1989), a conservative critic of American Cold War policies and a college professor who was dismissed in 1959 amid a controversy at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, was described as "News Editor" and "Editor" of Facts Forum News. Mary Helen Brengel was identified as an "associate editor." She later worked for the Independent American, the conservative bimonthly newspaper founded in 1955 as Free Men Speak by Kent Courtney, and his then first wife, Phoebe Carolyn Greene Courtney (1918-1998).​

​Smoot dismissed Medford Evans from Facts Forum for "financial irregularities". On November 15, 1956, Hunt withdrew his subsidy to the monthly Facts Forum News because the publication was not financially self-sustaining.​

Spreading his conservative message

Thereafter, Smoot published his weekly syndicated The Dan Smoot Report, a 15-minute broadcast aired on weekends on selected radio and television stations. He also carried his conservative message via. radio. One issue of the report was devoted to a mental health bill in Alaska in 1956, prior to statehood. Smoot claimed the Alaska bill was a communist conspiracy to establish concentration camps on American soil. Upon the death in the spring of 1964, Smoot lionized Douglas MacArthur and the general's tenet, "There Is No Substitute for Victory." ​

A subsequent 1964 issue opposed a proposal by U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson to transfer sovereignty of the Panama Canal to the Republic of Panama. Johnson failed in his attempt, but President Jimmy Carter in 1978, with bipartisan U. S. Senate support led by Moderate Republican Howard Baker of Tennessee, prevailed by a one-vote margin to extend control of the Canal Zone to Panama. It was Moderate Republican support for many Democratic proposals that particularly angered Smoot, who gave up on the national Republican Party as a viable alternative to the majority Democrats of his day.​

In 1962, Smoot wrote The Invisible Government concerning early members of the Council on Foreign Relations. Other books include The Hope of the World; The Business End of Government; and his autobiography, People Along the Way. Additionally he was associated with Robert Welch's John Birch Society and wrote for the society's American Opinion bi-monthly magazine.[7]

In 2000, conservative activist Peter Gemma wrote a biographical sketch of Smoot in The New American. Gemma recounts that Smoot, among his other aberrant positions, challenged Barry Goldwater during the 1964 presidential campaign for the nominee's embrace of NATO, which Smoot considered a globalist organization of questionable value.[8] ​ In 1970, Smoot opposed the selection in the Republican primary of a future U.S. President, George Herbert Walker Bush, as the nominee for the United States Senate from Texas. He claimed that Bush's political philosophy was little different from the Democrats that he sought to oppose. Bush lost the Senate election that year to Lloyd Bentsen of Houston. Oddly, eighteen years later, Bush would head the Republican presidential ticket when Bentsen would be the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for vice president on theticket headed by Michael Dukakis.​

​Smoot was a victim of the Federal Communication Commission's Fairness Doctrine which prior to 1987 mandated "equal time" for opposing sides in political debate. As Smoot's critics demanded equal time to reply to his broadcasts, station after station dropped The Dan Smoot Report. His last broadcast was issued on March 1, 1971. Smoot told his viewers​

... Now I am forced to make a change — or I will be forced to quit. The unrelenting weekly deadlines have taken their toll. I have been plagued with bad health of late. Robert Welch, head of the John Birch Society, has generously offered to incorporate The Dan Smoot Report into [his] The Review of the News. Through that splendid weekly magazine, [I can] fulfill my obligations to you whose subscriptions have not expired. ... I hope you will give The Review of the News the same loyalty and support you have given my report."[5]

​In 1972, Smoot opposed the reelection of President Richard M. Nixon and served as campaign manager for American Independent Party presidential candidate John Schmitz, a departing Republican U.S. Representative for California's 35th congressional district.​ Schmitz received 1.1 million votes but carried no states.

Books

  • The Hope of the World (1958)​
  • The Invisible Government (1962)
  • The Business End of Government (1973)​
  • People Along the Way: The Autobiography of Dan Smoot (1993)​

References

  1. William Bernard "Bernie" Smoot. Ancestry.com. Retrieved on August 24, 2019.
  2. Jewell Smoot. Ancestry.com. Retrieved on August 24, 2019.
  3. Lawrence Edward Smoot. Ancestry.com. Retrieved on August 24, 2019.
  4. Virginia Smoot. Ancestry.com. Retrieved on August 24, 2019.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Book review, March 7, 1994, in The New American, People Along the Way: The Autobiography of Dan Smoot (Big Sandy, Texas: Tyler Press, 1993), ISBN:978-1884441493.
  6. MacDonald & Associates: Facts Forum press release. Jfredmacdonald.com. Retrieved on June 13, 2011.
  7. Smoot's autobiography and review by Jane Ingraham (1994)
  8. Peter Gemma (January 1993). Dan Smoot: The Man and His Message. The New American. Retrieved on May 21, 2016.

Further reading:

  • Heather Hendershot, What's Fair on the Air? Cold War Right-Wing Broadcasting and the Public Interest (University of Chicago Press, 2011) 260 pages; covers the rise and fall of prominent conservative radio hosts H. L. Hunt, Carl McIntire, and Billy James Hargis, and Dan Smoot.​

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