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Smith, Howard Worthlocked

(02 February 1883–03 October 1976)
  • Bruce J. Dierenfield


Smith, Howard Worth (02 February 1883–03 October 1976), U.S. congressman, was born in Broad Run, Virginia, the son of William Worth Smith and Lucinda Lewis, farmers. Howard Smith was born in a slave-built plantation home called “Cedar Hill” in the Shenandoah valley. All his life, he embraced the values that were commonplace among whites in the Old Dominion—white supremacy, limited government, and self-reliance. He gravitated toward public service as his mother and congressman cousin, John F. Rixey, tutored him in the ways of politics. He earned his law degree in 1903 from the University of Virginia, the most well connected school in the state. He then practiced law and invested in real estate in Alexandria and moved quickly into local political circles. As an organization Democrat, he easily won election or appointment as city councilman, commonwealth’s attorney, corporation court judge, and circuit court judge. This was the start of a sixty-year political career. In 1930 Smith gained Virginia’s Eighth District congressional seat by finessing the Prohibition issue; he promised to uphold the nation’s laws, which included Prohibition, but he also claimed that a “permanent and satisfactory” answer to alcohol consumption demanded an “open mind and free hand.” His position permitted him to avoid antagonizing voters on both sides of the controversy....

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