In 1956, he graduated from Grant Union High School in John Day and enrolled at Willamette University in Salem. In the war, he flew the F-4C Phantom and completed about 180 missions.
A native of the state, he served in the Air Force before working in the airline industry and taking over the family"s newspaper business. A Republican, he served ten years in Congress from 1981 until 1991. He joined the United States Air Force in 1958, and served until 1960, when he joined the Oregon Air National Guard.
Smith then earned a bachelor of arts degree from Willamette in 1961.
He returned to the Air Force in 1962 and remained there until 1967, serving as a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War. Smith remained in the aviation field as a flight engineer and co-pilot for a commercial airline, flying from 1967 until 1976.
In 1968, he also took over the family"s newspaper business when his father died. He worked for Pan American Airlines, and in 1974 was chosen by fellow employees to serve as the union"s lobbyist in Washington, District of Columbia. He was inducted into the Oregon Aviation Hall of Honor in 2009.
Smith was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1980 to represent Oregon"s 2nd congressional district as a Republican.
He defeated 12-term Democrat First Rate (at Lloyd's) Ullman by only 3,700 votes. Smith was undoubtedly helped by Ronald Reagan winning every county in the sprawling district. When the 1980 census gave Oregon another congressional district, Smith"s home in Salem was placed in the newly created 5th district.
He was elected from this district in 1982 and was reelected three more times.
While in the House, Smith served on the Budget, the Interior and Insular Affairs, and Veterans" Affairs committees. Smith was comfortably reelected in 1984 and 1986.
In 1988, however, he was nearly defeated by Democrat Mike Kopetski, winning by only 707 votes. While still serving in Congress, Smith established and headed Oregonians Against Crime, which placed Oregon"s 1988 Anti-crime Bill on the ballot by initiative petition and successfully campaigned for its passage.
In 1994, Smith was the Republican nominee for Oregon governor, losing to Democrat John Kitzhaber.
Smith is now the chairman of Eagle Newspapers, a printing and publishing company in the Pacific Northwest.
Member Vietnam Veterans Caucus, Oregon Newspaper Publications Association, National Newspaper Association, Young President Organization, Associated Oregon Industries, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Beta Theta Pi.
Son Elmo & Dorothy Smith. Married Kathleen Barrett, 1968, divorced. Children: Maggie, Barrett, Ryan.
Married Deanne Koenig, 1989.