CHICKASHA — With more than 52 years of service to America’s largest youth baseball organization, Bill Smith of Chickasha has been named to the Babe Ruth League’s National Hall of Fame.
The Babe Ruth International Board of Directors unanimously elected the former Miamian at its annual meeting in Florida this fall.
Smith joins 150 individuals and organizations who have earned the distinction.
“Bill was involved in the Babe Ruth League for 52 years,” said Steve Tellefsen, Babe Ruth League president and CEO. “He proved on numerous occasions to be one of the most formidable forces that kept the league on the cutting edge of the youth sports arena.”
Smith praised the organization’s long service to America’s youth.
“The Babe Ruth League is devoted to helping America’s kids find early success in sports,” said Smith, a lifelong baseball fan. “Seeing my name among the BRL hall of famers is an extraordinary honor. I have received so much from the Babe Ruth League over the last 50 years. This is icing on the cake. The fine work of the league will serve many generations to come.”
Smith’s affiliation with the league began in 1955 when he became the founder of the Miami league and served for five years.
He served as the Oklahoma State commissioner from 1960-66 and as Southwest regional director from 1966-73. He was elected an at-large member of the board of directors in 1973.
In 1983, Smith became the chairman of the board for the Babe Ruth League. He served as chairman for 24 years until his retirement in 2007.
He served as the Babe Ruth League World Series director for many years as well.
For more than 36 years, Smith has been a member of the administration at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, holding various responsibilities.
He continues as an assistant to the president and holds the title of vice president emeritus for the university community.
Smith was born Sept. 4, 1925, in Cromwell, Okla. On the same day he graduated from high school — May 22, 1943 — he enlisted in the U.S. Marines Corps Reserve.
While serving, Smith earned two Purple Hearts and other distinguished honors for military service.
He refused the first Purple Heart at the time because his unit was still fighting. His second Purple Heart came at the end of the war.
Smith didn’t actually receive either medal until more than 62 years later in November 2007, when U.S. Congressman Tom Cole presented him with both Purple Hearts.
He began his career in education more than 50 years ago as a teacher and coach — first in Prague, then in Miami.
He served as an educational consultant for the State of Oklahoma and served 16 years as teacher, coach and administrator at Miami Public Schools.
He was also the president of the Oklahoma Secondary School Principals.
Smith was honored by USAO in 1996 when the newly constructed ballpark was named the Bill Smith Ballpark.
Smith was instrumental in returning baseball and softball back to the college after an 18-year hiatus.
When it was announced that baseball and softball would be started again at the university, Smith donated his collection of baseball memorabilia to be auctioned to raise funds for the teams.
In addition to the ballpark, USAO also has named an annual award after Smith.
The Bill Smith Scholar-Athlete Award seeks to recognize and honor students who excel in combining scholastic and athletic achievement while studying and competing at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.
Each year, the award is presented to one outstanding male and one outstanding female who maintain high standards of scholarship, citizenship and sportsmanship during their college careers.
As a college student, Smith lettered in baseball, basketball and football at two different colleges — Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami and Midwestern University in Wichita Falls.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Midwestern University, a master’s degree from Kansas State University and holds a professional administration degree from the University of Oklahoma.
Smith has served as chairman of the Salvation Army advisory board, on the Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, on the Festival of Light marketing committee, as vice president of the Chickasha United Way and in numerous other civic projects.
A Rotarian since 1958, Smith has held memberships in the Miami and Chickasha clubs. He served in all of the club offices and was a Paul Harris Fellow.
He also has served as district governor for Rotary International.