Ron Smith 1941-2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
WBAL Radio News

Ron Smith, WBAL’s show host who became known to generations of listeners as “The Voice of Reason” died Monday night from cancer.  

He had turned 70 December 2.

He died at his home in Shrewsbury, surrounded by his wife June and the rest of his family.

Funeral services will be private.  A public memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.

Ron shared his final days with his listeners telling them “don’t mourn me”.

Ron announced to his listeners on October 17 that he had been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer.

He underwent treatment at Johns Hopkins’ Kimmel Cancer Center, but on November 17 told listeners that he would halt his chemotherapy treatments after consulting with his doctor and his wife, June.

On November 28, Ron announced he was retiring from his on air duties because of his declining health, and that he had begun home hospice care.

Ron also wrote a weekly column for the Baltimore Sun. 

In his final column last month, Smith wrote, “What is a mere individual to do? Live as sane and decent a life as you can, love your family and friends and understand that everybody is in this together. My work here is done.”

In the final days of his life, Ron received many phone calls, letters and emails from colleagues and fans.

Coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens called Ron on his birthday and called their 30-minute phone conversation with Ron, “one of the most encouraging and motivational conversations I’ve ever had with anyone in my life.”

Harbaugh gave Ron the game ball after the Ravens beat the Cleveland Browns Sunday, December 4.

Ron first came to Baltimore in 1973 as a reporter and anchor for WBAL-TV’s “Action News.”

When station management decided to “part ways” with Ron in 1980, Ron became a stockbroker.

In 1984, Ron was hired to host a talk show for WBAL Radio, where he stayed on the air until November. 

Although Ron’s politics leaned to the right, Ron called himself a Libertarian and was critical of both Democrats and Republicans.

In 2003, Ron received national attention and criticism, when he told listeners he opposed the Iraq War.

Ron later described the days after the start of the war as the toughest in his career, and in his life.  Ron said that his show lost listeners and advertisers, but he praised WBAL management for supporting him. 

Ron was respected by the politicians he often criticized on the air.  Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin issued the following statement Monday night:

“I have been on Ron Smith’s show many times over the years and he had a unique voice that made him a Baltimore radio icon. While Ron and I often disagreed, he was always fair, he was always insightful and he was always honest with his listeners. Today, I join the many, many fans of Ron Smith in mourning the passing of someone I had enormous respect for and who I counted as a true friend. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, June, and his family.”

Ron’s family, friends and colleagues have set up Team Reason, which is raising money for pancreatic cancer treatment and research at Johns Hopkins.

Donations to Team Reason are being accepted in Ron’s memory.

CLICK HERE to donate to Team Reason.

Ron Smith’s Official Biography

Ron Smith was born December 2, 1941 and raised in Troy, New York.

 

An autodidact, he interrupted his studies and joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1959.

 

In 1962, he left the luscious pine barrens of Camp Lejeune for the pleasures of providing security at New London, Connecticut’s Naval Base until discharged.

 

Returning to the world, Ron tried to figure out how he could make a living without actually working. In pursuit of that goal, he enrolled in Northeast Broadcasting School in Boston with an eye toward some kind of announcing career.  Within weeks, a job was found at WHAV in Haverhill, Mass.  The rest is history, as they say.  

 

That is, a succession of jobs in radio and television which took him to Albany, New York for a time, then on to Baltimore in 1973.  Ron was a TV anchor and reporter for WBAL-TV until 1980, when new management decided to make a change in his department by getting rid of him.  

 

They parted by “mutual consent,” which is when your bosses decided you’ve got to go and you agree there’s nothing much you can do about it.  He became a stockbroker for five years, which was interesting enough, but not precisely his “piece of cake”. (Remember the part above about “without actually working?”)  

 

August 5th, 1984, he began hosting a talk show on WBAL Radio (AM 1090).  

 
Often at odds with the Baltimore Sun, Ron was surprised when the paper asked him to join The Sun as a columnist.  Beginning August 2008, Ron penned a weekly column which appeared on Fridays.

 

He and his wife June, affectionately known as “Mrs. Reason” – he was, after all, The Voice of Reason, lived in a once sleepy, now a bustling Baltimore bedroom community just across the Maryland state line in Pennsylvania.  

 

They busied themselves with work and travel, having had the pleasure of many cruises and other overseas trip, and the company of their blended family of five children and seven grandchildren.

 

Ron was an avid golfer and spent lots of time chasing the little white ball and striving to put it in that tiny little hole in the ground.

 

About talk radio, Ron said, “Whatever you talk about, someone out there knows more than you do.”  But he was never at a loss for words, claiming that he “swallowed a lexicon as a child and had been spitting it out, word by word, ever since.”

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