Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Uncle Gordon 1920-2010 (He died on my birthday)

Gordon William Smith, 89, an artist and avid collector who met an American Indian chief at age 5 and let his imagination lift him to a life as an architectural artist and as one of America's leading collectors of American Indian art, died Thursday, March 4, 2010, at home.
Memorial service: 1 p.m. Monday in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth. Dr. William Longsworth will officiate. Interment to follow in Greenwood Memorial Park. Visitation: 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Thompson's Harveson & Cole Funeral Home.
Pallbearers: Mr. John Boswell, Mr. John Burk, Mr. Robert Dupree, Mr. Brent Hyder, Mr. Dan Reese, Mr. William Smith, Mr. Andrew Solomon, Mr. Bronson Stocker, Mr. Wesley Stripling, Mr. Samuel More. Honorary pallbearers: Dr. Irvin Clayton, Mr. Van Cliburn, Mr. Carroll Collins, Mr. John Graves, Dr. Richard Hubbard, Mr. George Keating, Mr. Bud Kennedy, Mr. Scott McDonald, Mr. Douglas More, Mr. Thomas Palmer, Mr. Diego Rodriguez, Mr. John Stevenson, Mr. Philip Vogel, Mr. Ronald Watson.
Memorials: Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, 1600 Gendy St., Fort Worth, Texas 76107; the Houston Museum of Natural Science, 1 Hermann Circle Drive, Houston, Texas 77030; the Van Cliburn Foundation, 2525 Ridgmar Blvd., Suite 307, Fort Worth, Texas 76116; or First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth.
As a designer and creator of more than 800 works of art across 14 states, from stained-glass windows to a 50-foot-tall mosaic, Gordon Smith viewed his art in the same way he viewed the pieces of Indian art he collected as a lifelong avocation: as small glimpses of life's endless story, like a giant totem pole depicting life across generations and cultures.
Born in Fort Worth as the grandson of pioneers who moved to Parker County in the 1870s, he grew up hearing about Indians. In 1925, when the Smiths were vacationing in Glacier National Park, Mont., Blackfoot chief Two-Guns-White-Calf gave the boy a small, black rawhide rattle.
By age 20, he had made many friends among the Plains Indians and had been inducted into the Lakota Sioux, all while gathering a collection of more than 1,000 artifacts now in the Gordon W. Smith North American Indian Collection at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and also on display at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History through a rotating collection-sharing arrangement.
As a captain of two U.S. Navy landing ships in World War II, he participated in 13 landings on Japanese-held islands, often under enemy fire.
After graduating from Southern Methodist University, he attained a master's degree in English literature at Columbia University and also studied with noted Italian sculptor Oronzio Maldarelli.
Home in Fort Worth, he worked as an advertising artist and founded Smiths, Inc., the publishing house which introduced novelist John Howard Griffin, later the author of "Black Like Me."
In 1962, Smith created a stained-glass window for the memorial chapel named for his father, W.D. Smith, at Harris Methodist Hospital. Out of this grew the architectural arts firm Smith Studios, founded with his brother J. Hulbert, which over the next 41 years created stained-glass windows and other works of art for churches and hospitals across the South and Southwest. His 50-foot-tall mosaic on an Alabama church includes 1.4 million pieces of Italian tile, and is one of the largest mosaics ever created in the U.S.
Smith Studios also worked on the restoration of the historic Texas & Pacific Railway Terminal in Fort Worth, now T&P Station, and for this work the Texas Society of Architects awarded Smith its Artisan's Award. Smith's work, including architectural art, painting and drawing, was featured in a 2004 retrospective exhibition at Texas Christian University.
He was a board member of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and First Methodist Church of Fort Worth, as well as many other community organizations, and a member of the Jewel Charity Ball.
His wife of 48 years and the love of his life, Beverley Taylor Smith, was a Fort Worth civic leader, host of the local TV Ann Alden Show, and chairman of the Cliburn Concerts division of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. She died in 1998, and after her death he funded the Beverley Taylor Smith Award for the Best Performance of a New Work, awarded at each Van Cliburn Competition.
The family thanks Diego Rodriguez and Brenda Hernandez for their many years of steadfast kindness to Gordon.
Survivors: Son, Gordon Dee Smith and wife, Susan, of Fort Worth; daughter, Beverley Blaine Smith of Fort Worth; grandson, William D. Smith II; and granddaughters, Blaine Keating Smith and Carolyn Blaine Smith Solomon.
Published in Star-Telegram on March 7, 2010


Anonymous said...

You must be extremely proud to be able to call him your uncle. Make sure you give the old boy a good send off.

Ginny said...

He was a sweet man and I have lots of good childhood memories of him and his indian collection. He also kept exotic salt water fish and I especially loved the nurse shark he had in his basement!

Sharon said...

That shark died on a private jet during flight to release it into the Gulf, when it got too large for Gordon's tank. Dee used the fact that they kept a shark in their basement aquarium as a "chick magnet".

Anonymous said...

He just sounds like everybodies favourite cool uncle. Childhood memories are to be cherished always and I believe they make us the people we are today. You are very lucky to have had such an inspiring, uniquely interesting man who was your uncle.

Anonymous said...

Wow! He was a giant in your family. I'm sorry for your loss.


Ginny said...

I hate to hear that about the shark. I always wondered what happened to it.

Ginny said...
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