Denny Smith, chairman of the board of Eagle Newspapers Inc., was inducted into the prestigious Oregon Newspaper Hall of Fame July 12 at the summer meeting of Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.
The award recognizes “Oregon newspaper people who have been involved in management or leadership in one or more disciplines of the newspaper industry in Oregon, and who have made an outstanding contribution to Oregon newspaper professionalism through community, regional or state service.”
Eagle Newspapers acquired the Hood River News in September 1961. The Oregon Newspaper Hall of Fame Award was first conceived in 1973 by the ONPA board of directors, and the first induction took place in 1979. Among the first inductees was Denny’s father, Elmo Smith, founder of Eagle Newspapers.
In 1968, upon the death of his father, Denny Smith assumed the leadership role for the family’s newspaper company, which is based in Salem. At the time, the family owned or had an interest in the weekly newspapers located in Madras, Hood River and Dallas.
Under Smith’s leadership, the company has grown to 25 holdings in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, including two daily newspapers, 12 weekly or twice-a-week newspapers, five niche and free distribution publications, four web press plants, a print shop and a mailing company with printing capabilities.
Denny Smith has had a life-long career in printing and publishing, served 10 years as member of Congress and piloted aircraft ranging from Piper Cubs in Eastern Oregon to jet fighters over Vietnam and a Pan Am Boeing 707 around the world.
He was inducted into the Oregon Aviation Hall of Honor in 2009.
His father had been publishing Eastern Oregon weekly newspapers for half a dozen years when the only son of Elmo and Dorothy Leininger Smith was born Jan. 19, 1938. Denny grew up as a familiar fixture with extra hands at the newspapers until he entered college.
It was during his years at Willamette University in Salem that he had his interest in politics fueled as he campaigned with his dad, a former state senator and governor, making a bid for a U.S. Senate seat. Nearly two decades later, Denny was a candidate himself for the first time, defeating a 24-year-incumbent in the U.S. House of Representatives, Al Ullman.