The Kilgore News Herald has been blessed for decades to have many talented people come through these doors, to provide the Kilgore area with very good news and sports coverage.
One of those people was Kenneth Smart, the publisher of the News Herald from 1978 to 1988.
Smart died on Saturday, at age 88, and services for family members are scheduled Wednesday at Grove Hill Cemetery in Dallas — there are plans for a memorial service for friends at a later date.
Kenneth was born on Oct. 6, 1932, in Dallas. He graduated as valedictorian from R. L. Turner High School in Carrollton and later earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of North Texas, working in the summers for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Carrollton Chronicle.
While pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Texas, he worked as the Minister of Music and Education at the First Baptist Church of Georgetown. He accepted a job as a reporter with the Dallas Times Herald in 1954, but military service soon interrupted his career.
Drafted in 1954, he left the news business and trained at the Army’s Counterintelligence School in Baltimore, serving there for two years while writing a history of that school. In 1956, he returned to Dallas, joining an active reserve unit in Dallas and specializing in strategic intelligence research on the former Soviet Union’s oil industry. He continued to serve in the Army Reserve for 21 years before retiring with the rank of major.
Kenneth was city editor for the Dallas Times Herald in November 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In that role, he was responsible for assigning all of the paper’s reporters to cover the assassination and the subsequent killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, and he recalled spending that entire weekend at the office.
Later, a professional newspaper journal praised the work of the “33-year-old City Editor” in covering the assassination. Kenneth complained to his wife about the factual error in the article — he was only 31 at the time — but she replied that he aged at least two years over those few days. He continued to serve at the Times Herald for 21 years before purchasing and operating a weekly newspaper in Dallas, the White Rocker News. In 1978, he joined the Kilgore News Herald and served as publisher for 10 years before managing newspapers in Alamogordo, New Mexico and Weatherford.
Kenneth was active in church all his life, serving as a Sunday school teacher for almost 60 years, including more than 30 years at the First Baptist Church of Kilgore. He wrote a history of that church and two books on the history of the Baptist Foundation. He was a talented musician and played piano regularly for services and revivals. He also played the tuba in high school, a talent thankfully unknown to most of his friends. He loved Kilgore and the history of east Texas. He was a member of the Rotary Club, and after retirement served as a master docent at the East Texas Oil Museum.
Kenneth was preceded in death by his parents, John Paul and Faye Smart, and brothers James and David Smart. He is survived by his wife of almost 67 years, Betty Burns Smart; children Kathy Bethune and husband Gary Bethune, and Scott Smart and wife Susan Smart; grandchildren Sara McLaughlin and husband Callan McLaughlin, Rachel Bethune, and Mary Anne and Robert Smart; great-grandchildren Camden and Myla McLaughlin; sister Eugenia Childress; and sisters-in-law Janice Smart and Bonnie Smart.