Paul Smith was born on January 25, 1889 in Woodsboro, Md., the oldest of eight children of Charles Edward and Florence Burnetta Smith. Educated in the local schools, he entered Walkersville High School in 1904 with 14 classmates, yet was the only one to graduate four years later. He spent one year at Blue Ridge College in New Windsor, Md., where he and his brothers cleaned rooms in order to pay room and board.
In 1912 he married Henrietta Foust Menges and they had three daughters: Jeanne Smith Gardes, Polly Smith Moyer ’48; and Lois Smith Harrison ’45, chair of the Hood College Board of Trustees.
An extremely successful businessman, Mr. Smith started in 1909 as secretary to the manager of the Washington, Frederick and Gettysburg Railway Company, a local trolley line. Three years later he was made general agent of the railroad’s successor, the Hagerstown and Frederick Railway Company.
In 1914 he became a pioneer in the commercial and residential use of electricity when the company named him head of a newly established department created to handle a neophyte commercial and residential electric business. In the early 1900s, use of electricity was almost solely limited to railways. The business grew quickly and in 1923 became known as the Potomac Edison Company. Mr. Smith was promoted to president in 1932 and served in this capacity until his retirement in 1957. He also helped establish, and then served as president of, the Southeastern Utilities Exchange, as association of utility companies serving the Southeastern area of the United States. Well liked and respected by his employees and business associates, he was known for his high standards, sound business principles, belief in teamwork, and open door policy.
Mr. Smith first became affiliated with Hood when he was appointed to the Hood College Board of Trustees in 1937 to fill the unexpired term of Andrew Brodbeck. A true and sincere friend, he was an ardent supporter, trusted advisor, and visionary builder who stayed involved with Hood for 27 years until his death in 1964 at age 75. He was appointed president of the board in 1948 and served with three presidents: Henry Stahr, Andrew Truxal, and Randle Elliot. Under his leadership, Hood’s enrollment increased 40 percent and four buildings were erected and equipped: Gambrill Gymnasium, Lillian Brown Hodson Science Building, Coffman Chapel, and Smith Hall, the residence hall that bears his name. He was also instrumental in guiding the establishment of the College’s retirement program which was implemented after his death.
A public-spirited citizen and great humanitarian, he was known as “The First Citizen of Western Maryland.” A charter member of the Frederick Rotary Club, he was vitally interested in young people and was drawn to service through the Frederick YMCA. When transferred to Hagerstown, he became active in the community, holding leadership roles in the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, YMCA, Washington County Hospital, and Washington County Community Chest. He was active on the boards of the Union Manufacturing Company, Mutual Insurance Company of Frederick, the Francis Scott Key Hotel, and the Frederick printing firm of Marken and Bielfeld, and was a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Southeastern Engineering Society.
He was instrumental in raising money for the newly established Hagerstown Junior College and was active with the Maryland State School Survey Commission. He was a founding member and served until his death on the Maryland Port Authority.
A lifelong member of the Reformed Church, Mr. Smith once taught a men’s bible class of more than 350 members. He helped establish the Washington County Council of Churches, served on the Committee of the Potomac Synod of the Reformed Church, was a delegate to the Home Missions, and was active in the Hagerstown Roundtable of Christians and Jews. He also was on the board of Lancaster Theological Seminary and served as vice president of the board of Massanutten Academy.
Progress and excellence were his goals for Hood and all his business, personal and humanitarian pursuits. He believed in responsibility to the community and working hard to achieve worthy goals. According to his daughter, Lois Smith Harrison ’45, “He and my mother encouraged us by example and counsel to give of ourselves fully to our community—to give our time, service and money for the good of others.”