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Jeff Smith, in memoriam

Jeff Smith ranks among the most talented writers you could find in Tucson’s  newspaper history. Some stories about his work are the stuff of legend.

It is said that Frank Johnson, the Star’s managing editor, stopped the presses and ordered many copies destroyed when he read a review by Smith, who test-drove cars and wrote a Saturday column. Smith said one car — a very fine one, evidently — was “auto-erotic,” a phrase that unpleased Johnson.

There is another story about a particularly attractive woman who was summoned to give evidence in a trial. Smith, the story goes, wrote that so-and-so testified in court “wearing a hound’s-tooth skirt three teeth long.”

The report that Smith, 67, died this week at his home just outside Patagonia reminded me that I had heard from him last year about a piece that appears elsewhere in the amalgam of flotsam rippling across this site. It was regarding a heavily researched piece on Abe Chanin, a long-time Tucson newspaperman for the Arizona Daily Star. Smith and I worked for Chanin in the 1970s on the Star’s editorial page. Chanin was our friend, and a great teacher.

I did not thank Smith for the comment. I regret that. Here is what he wrote:

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jeff smith says:

November 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm

as a friend and employee of abe’s at the star editorial page in the founding day’s of the ‘red star’ i can only thank you for this stroll down memory lane. a job well done. i think the best that can be said of a print journalist is that day-to-day, week-by-week he left his town a better place to be. sounds common, is common, but what could be better? i never knew a more thoroughly moral man than abe chanin. i loved working for him, with him, loved him then, loved him still.

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Abe Chanin will be 91 this year. He lives in Albuquerque.

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