Obituary for Emeritus Professor Robert C. Smith

Author: San Francisco State University Department of Political Science
April 27, 2023
Robert Smith

With heavy hearts, SF State's Department of Political Science announces the passing of our beloved Emeritus Professor Robert C Smith. Dr. Smith taught and wrote on race and American politics for more than thirty-five years, publishing a multitude of articles and books, including Race, Class, and Culture: A Study in Afro-American Mass Opinion and Leadership; The Impact of Ronald W. Walters on African American Thought and Leadership; and Polarization and the Presidency: From FDR to Barack Obama. 

Dr. Smith completed his undergraduate work with honors at UC Berkeley, earning a master's degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. from Howard University, which awarded him the Distinguished Ph.D. Alumni Award in 1998. He was also an associate editor of the National Political Science Review and co-author of the textbook American Politics and the African American Quest for Universal Freedom and the Encyclopedia of African American Politics. Alongside his academic contributions, Dr. Smith made frequent media appearances analyzing the racial dimensions of American politics.  

Dr. Smith had an encyclopedic knowledge of US presidents. His abiding interest (but not his only one by a long shot) was how various administrations dealt with racial issues. One of his later contributions to the literature was a discussion of how US conservativism was inherently related to anti-Blackness. Dr. Smith was a beloved teacher in our department. He spoke softly, requiring students to pay close attention. They were rewarded with his brilliant insights and deep knowledge of American politics. Dr. Smith was one of our faculty with the greatest national prominence. He brought a huge amount to our program; his colleagues and former students still miss him dearly. His passing is a great loss, not only for his family and the Department of Political Science but also for the discipline as a whole.