Influential Ohio pubcaster Robert Smith Jr. dies; former “Washington Week” producer

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Robert D. Smith Jr., a longtime public broadcaster who was an early producer of Washington Week in Review and oversaw the creation of two Ohio public radio stations, died Jan. 20 in Oberlin, Ohio, after battling cancer. He was 81.

His son, Stephen Smith, host and executive editor of American RadioWorks, told the Toledo Blade: “He really believed in the public purpose of public broadcasting, and so do I – the obligation to serve the audience with stuff that’s meaningful and of high quality and can’t be found elsewhere.”

In 1967, as programming director at WETA, he produced the station’s new public affairs show, Washington Week in Review, which remains on the air as Washington Week. He was hired in 1974 to run WGTE-TV, Channel 30, in Toledo. In 1976, as president and general manager of the Public Broadcasting Foundation of Northwest Ohio, he helped create WGTE-FM and, in 1981, WGLE-FM in Lima.

Smith retired in 1988 due to the lingering effects of an auto accident, his son said.

“He was passionate about public television and public radio,” said Tom Paine, WGTE radio program manager, who was hired by Smith in 1975. “He would say WGTE brings Toledo thoughtful programs which are cherished by viewers and listeners. The ‘cherished’ is a Bob word. He loved our public service mission, and it was something that energized him every single day.”

Smith was born March 29, 1929, in Dayton. He was a 1951 graduate of the College of Wooster, where he founded the campus radio station. He served stateside in the Air Force during the Korean War, making instructional films. He had a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Beekeeping was his hobby, and he created videos for beekeepers.

Survivors include his wife, Janet Evans Smith; daughters, Janna Eversmeyer and Lisa Goss; son, Stephen Smith; sister, Robin Ellinor, and six grandchildren.

Memorial services will be at 3 p.m. Feb. 12 at Kendal at Oberlin in Oberlin, Ohio. The family suggests tributes to WGTE Public Media or the Way Public Library, Perrysburg, Ohio.

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