“Until [Smith’s tenure as obit editor], Metro editors routinely tapped young, inexperienced or bored-looking staffers to write the major obits that flashed across the wire. The “anybody free?” method had persisted even as The Post emerged as a national newspaper in the early 1970s by publishing the Pentagon Papers and breaking the Watergate scandal,” the paper says. “The Post’s obit tactics at the time contrasted embarrassingly with policies in force at other leading papers, from the Times of London to the New York Times, which had dedicated staff members to craft prominent obituaries.”
“Capable of displaying great courtliness, almost to the point of an F. Scott Fitzgerald hero, he also could be unpredictable and moody. Some colleagues joked it was risky to change his copy, if only because he let it be known that he really liked guns,” the obit explains.