Sports Illustrated ski writer

Passing Date: 
Friday, December 14, 2018

Frederick Rutledge Smith, 93, an editor at Sports Illustrated, died on Dec. 14, 2018 at his home in Wainscott, New York.

Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Smith grew up on a farm near Tuscaloosa. At age 18, in 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force and trained as a pilot. The war ended before he could ship overseas. He returned to Tuscaloosa to attend the University of Alabama. Upon earning his M.A. in English in 1948 he moved to New York for a career in publishing.

After stints at Charm (“for women who work) and True (“the man’s magazine”), in 1954 Smith became a senior editor at the new Sports Illustrated. At SI he covered “adventure” sports, including skiing. He learned to ski at Sugarbush, Vt., and traveled on assignment to resorts around the alps and across North America. He profiled leading skiers including Stein Eriksen and Jean Claude Killy. He supervised photo shoots in exotic locations, tropical and mountainous, around the world. In 1964, while working for managing editor Andre Laguerre, Smith worked with Jule Campbell to create the first SI swimsuit issue, which propelled SI to record newsstand sales during the midwinter doldrums.

In 1969 Smith left SI to take the first of a long series of editor-in-chief jobs, first at American Home, later at Time-Life Books, and culminating in the presidency of East-West Networks, publisher of many in-flight magazines. Retiring in 1990, Smith returned to travel writing for leading magazines, including Snow Country. He also became an accomplished watercolor artist, and into his 90s showed still life and landscape paintings at the Artist Members Exhibition at Guild Hall and at the libraries in Amagansett and East Hampton, New York.

Smith is survived by his husband of 17 years, Robert Schaeffer, and by a sister, Burton Harris of Louisville, Kentucky, and her children. --Seth Masia

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