Dennis C. Smith, 76, passed away on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, at Clinton Health Care. A visitation will begin at 1pm Friday, June 23, 2023, with a Celebration of Life Service following at 2pm at Ott & Lee Funeral Home in Brandon, MS.
Dennis was a 1965 graduate of Jackson’s Provine High School. He received an AA degree from Hinds Jr. College; a B.S. in Business from Mississippi College; a J.D. Degree and an honorary Master of Laws degree from Mississippi School of Law. He was a member of the Mississippi Bar Association and a Bagehot Fellow in Economics and Business Journalism from Columbia University.
Dennis spent 45 years in television news. He served as News Director for WLBT from July 1989 until his retirement in March 2013. From 1984-1989, he served variously as investigative reporter, managing editor and assignment editor for WLBT, as he had previously served in various capacities as news director, news anchor or reporter for KATV-TV in Lafayette, WWL-TV in New Orleans and WJTV in Jackson.
In 1974 Dennis created Probe, a weekly investigative half-hour documentary for WLBT. In 1976 the program won the George Foster Peabody Award for Power Politics in Mississippi for a profile of State Senator Bill Burgin’s conflict of interests. Probe also received several other national broadcasting awards.
In the 1990s, Dennis appeared once a week, after the 6PM Report, with an editorial/opinion piece called Point of View by which he delivered a thoughtful commentary and informed opinions on subjects such as questionable community behavior and City and State politics, calling out injustice or absurdity when he saw it. His commentaries were always reasonable, well thought out and sometimes funny. He called it as he saw it and was unafraid to invite any opposing views. The debates were, for the most part, civil and well thought out. Dennis was always respectful to his opponents and at times would give them the opportunity to air their own Point of View. The commentaries were not all about the negative; Dennis also always wanted to spotlight the good people, things and events in Jackson and the viewing area.
Because it meant so much to him, one of his most repeated commentaries concerned the American Flag being flown by any business, any government facility (post offices) or even the flag on the Mississippi River Bridge at Vicksburg that was being raised and flown in a battered, unraveling, torn or ripped state of disrepair. He called out the owners and officials; filmed it, aired it and ran the video of the flag repeatedly until it was replaced. He loved and respected the Flag for what it meant to him and what it represents, and Dennis publicly called out this perceived disrespect and took a stand. Either take it down or get a new one.
Dennis was the recipient of the Marvin Reuben Editorial Award from the Mississippi Association of Broadcasters six times and was inducted into the Mississippi Associated Press Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2013, Dennis was inducted into the Silver Circle of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Southeast Chapter.
After retirement from WLBT in 2013, Dennis taught television journalism at Jackson State University.
Dennis Smith was also a retired Colonel in the Mississippi National Guard with six overseas deployments. His last position with the Guard was Command Historian for Joint Force Headquarters. He received the Meritorious Service Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster; the Army Commendation Medal; the Army Achievement Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Mississippi Magnolia Cross; the Mississippi Magnolia Medal with bronze oak leaf luster; and the Mississippi War Medal. Dennis is a graduate of the U. S. Army Command and General Staff College.
In 2004, Dennis was in charge of the U. S. Media Center at the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach which credentialed over 1,000 members of the media for the 60th Anniversary of the Normandy invasion. Dennis considered this the ultimate honor and absolute highlight of his life and his service in the Mississippi Army National Guard. He also spent hours interviewing and recording the stories of Mississippi’s Greatest Generation – World War II Veterans – Veterans History Project, US Library of Congress, which, for him, was a labor of love.
Dennis served as a member of the Mississippi Supreme Court Committee on Cameras in the Courts. He was a founding board member and former President of Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information. He was also a former President of Keep Jackson Beautiful and a former member of the Board of Directors of Operation Shoestring and the Mississippi Commission on Access to Justice. In September 2013, Dennis was honored by the Mississippi Brain Injury Association with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dennis Smith was simply the Best. He strived for the best in all he endeavored. His reputation for integrity in reporting television news is undisputed. His love for Robin, his wife of 41 years; his family; his many friends; the City of Jackson; State of Mississippi and the United States Military was at the center of all his many accomplishments. His legacy will live on by means of the Dennis Smith Journalism Scholarship established at Mississippi College.
Dennis is survived by his loving wife, Robin Hodges Smith; stepson, Jon Richard Lewis, II of Washington, DC; brother, Eddie Smith (Jenny) of Brandon, MS; brother-in-law, Andy (Terri) Hodges of Owensboro, KY; many beloved nieces, nephews, and God Children. He was preceded in death by his parents, James Alton Smith and Ruby Mae Chapman Smith; siblings, Ronnie Alton Smith, Gene Allen Smith, and Phyllis Jo Smith Harris; and his nephew and war hero, SSgt Jason Aaron Rogers, USMC.
The family would like to give special thanks to Clinton Health Care, Dr. Ruth Fredericks, Dr. James D. Polk and Pax Hospice for the love and care given to Dennis and family.
In lieu of flowers memorials may be made in memory of Dennis, to The Dennis Smith Journalism Scholarship at Mississippi College at the following link: https://go.mc.edu/register/form?id=789d4530-51d3-d805-2676-2ca00dbbc45c .