Merriman Smith

Albert Merriman Smith (February 10, 1913 – April 13, 1970) was an American wire service reporter, notably serving as White House correspondent for United Press International and its predecessor, United Press. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his coverage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1967.

Merriman Smith
Merriman "Smitty" Smith 1962
Smith in 1962
BornFebruary 10, 1913
DiedApril 13, 1970 (aged 57)

Life and career

Smith was born in Savannah, Georgia. Known by his middle name (and his nickname, "Smitty"), Smith covered US presidents from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Richard Nixon and originated the practice of closing presidential news conferences with "Thank You, Mr. President," which was the title of his 1946 book, written during his coverage of the Harry Truman administration.[1] That honor, accorded the senior wire service reporter present at presidential news conferences, became more popularly known when it was continued by Smith's UPI colleague Helen Thomas.[2]

Smith began covering the White House in 1940. After the United States entered the Second World War, he was designated as one of the wire service reporters to follow the president on all his travels. They agreed for security purposes not to file their stories until after each trip had ended. Consequently, Smith was in Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945, and filed one of the first reports on the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[3]

On November 22, 1963, Smith was the main UPI reporter in Dallas for John F. Kennedy's visit. He traveled in the motorcade in the White House Pool car, which had a radiotelephone.[4] When the shots were fired, Smith grabbed the phone and called the UPI office.[5] He stayed in the phone while Jack Bell, the AP reporter in the car, started punching Smith and yelling at him to hand the phone over.[6][7] At 12:34 PM CST, the report went out over UPI wire.[8] In 1964, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. He was the first to publicly use the term "grassy knoll" regarding the assassination.[9]

In the 1960s, Smith was a frequent guest on television interview programs hosted by Jack Paar and Merv Griffin. Smith was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967.

Near the end of the novel Seven Days in May, by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II, Smith is thinly disguised as a White House reporter nicknamed "Milky."

Part of his legacy is The Merriman Smith Memorial Award, a journalism award bestowed by the White House Correspondents' Association.


Despondent over the death of his son in the Vietnam War and perhaps suffering from PTSD as a result of witnessing the Kennedy assassination, Smith died at his home in Washington, D.C., on April 13, 1970 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.[10] Although he never served in the military himself, his grave is in Section 32 of Arlington National Cemetery next to his son's, by special permission of the Commanding General of the Military District of Washington.

See also


  1. ^ a b Joe Alex Morris (1957). "Deadline Every Minute The Story Of The United Press".
  2. ^ "Helen Thomas honored". The Pittsburgh Press. Google News Archive. June 24, 1985. p. A2.
  3. ^ Donald A. Ritchie (2005), Reporting from Washington: The History of the Washington Press Corps, p. 121.
  4. ^ Sanderson, Bill. "Merriman Smith's account of JFK's assassination".
  5. ^ Sanderson, Bill (2013). "Fifty Years Ago This Minute: How the Assassination Story Broke". Observer. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  6. ^ "How this forgotten journalist scored the 20th century's biggest scoop". 6 November 2016.
  7. ^ Sanderson, Bill. "Merriman Smith's account of JFK's assassination".
  8. ^ Sanderson, Bill. "Merriman Smith's account of JFK's assassination".
  9. ^ Pages documenting this are held by Gary Mack, the curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.
  10. ^ Lim, Young Joon; Sweeney, Michael S. (2016). "UPI's Merriman Smith may have suffered from PTSD". Newspaper Research Journal. 37 (2): 113–123. doi:10.1177/0739532916648956. Retrieved 2018-01-04.

External links

1964 Pulitzer Prize

The following are the Pulitzer Prizes for 1964.

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List of UPI reporters

This is a list of notable reporters who worked for United Press International during their careers:

Carl W. Ackerman, 1913-1914 Albany, NY and Washington, D.C. bureau reporter, 1915-1917 Berlin Correspondent

Howard Arenstein, 1978 Jerusalem bureau chief 1981 editor on UPI's foreign desk in New York and Washington.

James Baar, editor in the UPI Washington Bureau

Arnaud de Borchgrave, 1947 -1951 Brussels bureau chief, 1998 president of UPI, 2001 editor-at-large of UPI based in Washington DC

Joe Bob Briggs

David Brinkley

Lucien Carr

Pye Chamberlayne

John Chambers, son of Whittaker Chambers (UPI Radio, 1960s)Audio recap of 87th Congress (1962)

Audio recap on Presidential Election (1964)

Funeral Services for Adlai Stevenson (1965)

Civil Rights Movement in 1965 (1965)

Preview 1966 (1966)

"From the People" with Hubert Humphrey (text) (February 1968)

Audio on LBJ's signing of Civil Rights Act of 1968 (April 11, 1968)

Text of eyewitness account of RFK assassination (1968)

Charles Collingwood

Walter Cronkite, 1939-1950, covered World War II for UP.

William Boyd Dickinson

Bill Downs

Marc S. Ellenbogen

James M. Flinchum

Sylvana Foa

Oscar Fraley

Thomas Friedman

Joseph L. Galloway

Seymour Hersh

John Hoerr

Richard C. Hottelet

Michael Keon, covered the Chinese Civil War in the late 1940s

David Kirby

Eli Lake

Larry LeSueur

Eric Lyman

Eugene Lyons

Carlos Mendo

Webb Miller

Randy Minkoff

M. R. Akhtar Mukul

Ron Nessen

Richard S. Newcombe

Dan Olmsted

Bill Rosinski

Milton Richman

Eric Sevareid

Steve Sailer

Harrison Salisbury

Mac Sebree

Neil Sheehan

William Shirer

Howard K. Smith

Merriman Smith

Jeff Stein

Barry Sussman

Roger Tatarian

Helen Thomas

Morris DeHaven Tracy

Martin Walker

Kate Webb

Steve Wilstein

Lester Ziffren

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United Press International

United Press International (UPI) is an international news agency whose newswires, photo, news film, and audio services provided news material to thousands of newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations for most of the 20th century. At its peak, it had more than 6,000 media subscribers. Since the first of several sales and staff cutbacks in 1982, and the 1999 sale of its broadcast client list to its rival, the Associated Press, UPI has concentrated on smaller information-market niches.

White House Correspondents' Association

The White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) is an organization of journalists who cover the White House and the President of the United States. The WHCA was founded on February 25, 1914 by journalists in response to an unfounded rumor that a United States congressional committee would select which journalists could attend press conferences of President Woodrow Wilson.The WHCA operates independently of the White House. Among the more notable issues handled by the WHCA are the credentialing process, access to the President and physical conditions in the White House press briefing rooms. Its most high-profile activity is the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, which is traditionally attended by the President and covered by the news media.

Not every member of the White House press corps is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association.

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