Dick Smith
From: Carl Kunath, 21 May 2002



A. Richard (Dick) Smith -- NSS 3708F-- 1939-2001

It is with heavy heart that we announce the passing of our dear friend and esteemed colleague, A. Richard (Dick) Smith.

Dick was the victim of an apparent robbery turned homicide as he went to his automobile parked in front of his home the evening of 4 July 2001. Loud voices were followed by gunshots and his wife, Ann, discovered him dying on the front porch. At this time, the police have no suspects and the crime appears without motive.

Dick was born in Odessa, Texas, September 22, 1939 and became a member of the NSS while still in high school. Initially, he attended Rice University as a math major. Consuming interests in speleology compelled a transfer to the University of Texas at Austin where he met and married Elizabeth Kelley, fathered two sons, Geren and Preston, and eventually received a degree in geology. He continued at UT in the Doctoral program but the press of family obligations left the Ph.D. unfinished. While at UT, Dick quickly became extremely active in many facets of the caving world, but is perhaps best noted for his contributions to the Texas Speleological Survey. Through the years, Dick served TSS as Editor, Geologist, Cartographer and Publisher. Among the 26 publications in the TSS's first four-volume series, Dick is credited as editor or coeditor for 5, geologist for 7, cartographer for 14, and was on the publication staff for all 26 of those issues and for nearly all subsequent TSS publications. He compiled, drafted and authored hundreds of cave maps and descriptions during his caving career and contributed countless hours and funds to supporting Texas speleology through the TSS. Dick also held offices in the UT grotto and served as chairman of the Texas Speleological Association. He is the author of numerous articles in the caving media and was highly regarded as a Karst and groundwater geologist by all his peers. Besides Texas, his caving activities included trips to New Mexico, Mexico, and Guatemala.

Dick is especially well-remembered by many defenseless writers for his meticulous editorial skills. He could turn a confused, semi-literate manuscript into a clever, articulate masterpiece.

In September 1997, Dick was awarded the Texas Speleological Survey's Outstanding Service Award at a dinner in his honor in Austin, Texas. The Outstanding Service Award is the highest honor offered by the TSS and is given to individuals that have made extraordinary long-term contributions in support of the TSS and Texas speleology. Dick was the first (and only) recipient of the award.

Although recognized for his enduring body of scholarly works, Dick's intelligence and fellowship have left an even larger impression on his long-time friends and colleagues. Carl Kunath tells the following story:

"I knew ABOUT Dick Smith long before I actually met him. On a trip to Indian Creek Cave early in my caving career, I was visiting with the owner, Fred Mason. Fred asked me if I knew some of the UT cavers such as Bill Russell, James Reddell, and Dick Smith. I replied that while I knew most of the active cavers I had not yet come face-to-face with Dick. Fred looked thoughtful for a moment, smiled and said, 'That guy's got a mind like a steel trap! He is the brains behind that UT group. You have a real treat in store for you!' Fred was right all three times."

We cannot overstate the loss of a gentleman, a brilliant intellectual mind, a sharp wit, a great caver and, above all, an exceptional friend in the fullest sense of that term.

We are diminished.

Carl Kunath (former NSS 6230F)
Gerald Atkinson (NSS 22368)
James Reddell (NSS 4897F)