Former USC Track Star J. Walter Smith Passed Away Last Week
June 6, 2006
J. Walter Smith, 86, who helped lead the USC track and field team to a championship in 1942 and was co-captain for the 1947 USC track and field team which placed second at the NCAA Championships, passed away last Wednesday (May 31) due to pneumonia.
Smith had an outstanding career for the Trojans, despite having it interrupted for paratrooper duty during World War II. He began his career at USC in 1942 and won the 200-meter low hurdles and the 400-meter intermediate hurdles at the National Junior AAU meet. That same season he placed sixth at the NCAA Championships in the 220-yard low hurdles.
Five years later, Smith returned as captain of the USC team in 1947 and won the AAU 400-meter hurdles over Roy Cochran who went on to the Olympic title the next year. He was the No. 1 ranked intermediate hurdler in the world that year.
In 1994, Smith received USC's Heritage Award for his contributions to the great tradition of track and field at USC.
Smith was born in Taft, Calif. in 1920 and attended Glendale College and Santa Ana Junior College before earning a bachelor's and master's degree from USC.
He returned to Glendale College to teach and coach track in 1947. He also served as vice principal at Glendale High for a year and then became Dean of Men and Student Activities at Glendale College in 1955. He remained affiliated with Glendale College until his retirement in 1992 and was such an integral part of the school, that the building which houses the athletic hall of fame is named the J. Walter Smith Student Center in his honor.
Smith also served as an Olympic track and field judge and was named Track Official of the Year in 1993. He also served as the chief track recall starter during the 1984 Olympics.
In lieu of flowers, his family has suggested making contributions to the J. Walter Smith Nursing Fund at the Scholarship Office at Glendale College.