Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Obituary of the Day - Louise Smith

People who know me, know I like reading obituaries of semi-famous people. They are so much more fascinating than those of A-list celebrities. Here's one from today:

Louise Smith, 89, First Woman in International Motorsports Hall of Fame, Dies

Published: April 18, 2006

Louise Smith, a driver on the Nascar circuit from 1945 to 1956 and the first woman inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, in 1999, died in Greensville, S.C., on Saturday. She was 89.

Her death was announced by the Westville Funeral Home in Greenville. Smith had cancer and had been in hospice care, one of her nieces, Dora E. Owens, told The Greenville News.

Smith, known as "the first lady of racing," gained a reputation for fearlessness. She won 38 modified events. "It was hard on me," she told The Associated Press in 1998. "Them men were not liking it to start with and they wouldn't give you an inch."

A native of Barnesville, Ga., she lived in Greenville most of her life. She received her start in racing when the young promoter Bill France was looking for a way to get people to the track. He asked about women who drove, and someone mentioned Smith.

Smith was married to the late Noah Smith, a junkyard owner who did not approve of her job. Her father and brothers were mechanics. She did not have children. She barnstormed for $100 to $150 in first prizes and some extra appearance money, and she was remembered for some spectacular crashes.

In 1947, she went to watch beach races at Daytona in her husband's new Ford coupe, but when she arrived, she decided she had to race. So she entered the car and wrecked it.

"Her husband said, 'Where's the car, Louise?' And she said, 'That ol' trap broke down in Augusta,' " Benny Parsons, a longtime Nascar star and commentator, recalled. "He showed her the newspaper. The wrecked car was on the front page."

Smith quit racing in 1956 but stayed close to the sport, working with Darlington Raceway's pageant before resigning as grand patron in November 1989 after more than a decade.

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