Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Voice of Reason - Ron Smith 1941-2011

Six days ago, Baltimore radio talk show host Ron Smith died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He had announced his retirement in November when he publicly disclosed he had the disease and subsequently announced he was foregoing chemotherapy after a bad reaction to his initial treatment and with the knowledge there was little to be gained.

Ron Smith was known on the air under the moniker, "The Voice of Reason," (or alternatively, "Talk Show Man"). I take the time to post some thoughts about him because he consistently gave voice to the principles of limited government. For 26 years, his show was a wonderful blend of commentary and interviews that was always entertaining and always informative. Ron's guests weren't always politicians parsing every word, but rather he spoke to authors and policy wonks and provided in-depth analysis of complicated issues that was far more educational than the talking points and platitudes spewed by nationally syndicated talk radio hosts. Even if you didn't agree with Ron Smith, you could learn a lot from his show. For a time he had a big government liberal political science professor from UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Tom Schaller, co-host with him on Friday afternoons to give an opposing view and liberal Democrat activist Frank DeFilippo was a regular guest on Monday afternoons. So respected was Ron Smith that even local Democrat politicians such as Baltimore mayor and later Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and Senator Ben Cardin have regularly appeared and taken questions from listeners (Senator Cardin deserves a gold star for venturing into the lion's den as often as he did) and the statist-leaning Baltimore Sun newspaper invited him to contribute an opposing view column every week. Blair Lee IV and Towson University Professor of Rhetoric, Rick Vats were also frequent guests. Blair Lee is an almanac of Maryland politics and Professor Vats often gave interesting insight on major speeches, such as State of the Union addresses. At 4 PM every day, financial planner Jonathan Murray would join Ron for the closing bell report. Murray and Ron shared a commitment to free markets and Murray often provided sunny optimism to contrast Ron's pessimism. But, the respect and friendship they felt for each other was obvious on the air. At the holidays, Ron would be joined on the air by his wife, June, and lighter topics would be covered. Mrs. Reason also has an engaging on-air friendliness and could've been a successful radio personality in her own right.

I have lived in Maryland most of my life, other than four years in Virginia. I listened to the Ron Smith show infrequently before I moved to Virginia, but I became an avid listener after I moved back (at least until the bone-headed WBAL moved him from my afternoon commute home to 9 AM in the morning while I was at work....). Ron Smith was a true libertarian and non-partisan. He regularly challenged the orthodoxy of both political parties. One of his favourite quips was that one party was stupid and the other evil (he was always deliberately vague about which was which) and therefore any bipartisan legislation was guaranteed to be both stupid and evil. He lost a lot of conservative listeners when he lambasted the Bush administration for the invasion of Iraq. I, however, was happy to find a voice in the wilderness echoing what I felt - that it didn't make one a "liberal" (i.e. leftist) to oppose an immoral and unnecessary war. We in Maryland were very lucky to have a local show of this quality and a local talent this great.

Ron Smith was an amazing radio talent and a tireless defender of liberty. His passing is a great loss to the Maryland community and he will be greatly missed.


Anonymous said...

Very well said, Ron was a brilliant radio host and there will never be one like him. Not only did he discuss politics, but anything else under the sun, sports to comedy, and his knowledge base was most impressive. His defense of the 2nd Amendment was always appreciated in this leftist,anti-gun state. And I agree a hundred times over that WBAL's moving him to the morning time slot was a bone headed move. While I was still able to catch his show in the new time slot, I, quite regrettably, missed more shows than I caught in the new format. How sad, especially now that he is gone.

My condolences to the Smith family, please know that Ron is missed by us too.

Anonymous said...

Very nice piece, all around. We are left with such a void now.