Saturday, June 14, 2014

Urcil Wilford Smoot (1899-1957)

From the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, October 26, 1950.

   The "Show Me State" yields another strangely named political figure in one Urcil Wilford Smoot of Daviess County, Missouri! I'll admit that I got an immediate chuckle out of Smoot's unusual first name "Urcil", which bears a slight resemblance in spelling to "Uracil", an important chemical compound that is part of Ribonucleic acid, responsible for "hereditary characteristics". While his name is certainly funny, Mr. Smoot maintained a reputation as a prominent resident in Raytown, Missouri, where he owned and operated an auto dealership. In addition to his business activities, Smoot was a three-time candidate for the Missouri State Legislature, being defeated on all three occasions.
   This lifelong resident of Missouri was born in the small town of Nelsonville on November 7, 1899, a son of Sobeska Taylor and Lillian Samuel Smoot. No information could be located on Urcil's early life in Nelsonville or the extent of his education. A veteran of the First World War, Urcil Smoot served in the U.S. Navy during that conflict, being recruited at Peoria, Illinois. From May-October 1917 he served as a Hospital Apprentice Second Class at Great Lakes Training Station, and after a short stint at the Naval Hospital in Annapolis went aboard the USS Columbia as a Pharmacist Second Class, serving on this ship from December 1917 to November 11, 1918. 
   After being discharged from service in 1919 Smoot returned stateside and married in Bexar County, Texas in 1921 to Ruth Elizabeth Williams (1900-1988), later having two children, William Taylor Smoot (1923-2007) and Elizabeth May Smoot (birth-date unavailable.) Following his marriage, Urcil Smoot was affiliated with the "Dahl and Dewitt" Chevrolet dealerships in Kansas City, and from 1928-36 owned and operated the "Smoot Chevrolet agency" in the city of Raytown. Beginning in the early 1930s he began a stint as President of the Raytown Chamber of Commerce, and after retiring from auto sales in 1936 was the owner of a farm located in the village of Lock Springs, Missouri.
   In 1942 Smoot made his first run for public office, launching a candidacy for the Missouri House of Representatives from Daviess County. Smoot's opponent in that year's election was another oddly named Daviess County resident, Urlin Eldreth Salmon (1870-1953), profiled here back in February of 2013. In a truly unique contest that pitted a man named Urlin against a man named Urcil, it was Urlin E. Salmon that claimed victory, defeating Smoot by a narrow vote margin, 2, 578 to 1, 892.

   Two years following his defeat Urcil Smoot was again the Democratic candidate for a seat in the state legislature from Daviess County, this time facing off against Republican Charles H. Bryant. He was dealt another loss on November 7th, 1944, losing to Bryant by a vote of 3, 541 to 2, 583. With two losing candidacies behind him, Smoot turned his attention to other aspects of public service in the late 1940s, serving as the Commander for the Department of Missouri Veterans of Foreign Wars for a one year term in 1946. Smoot's obituary (published in the May 29, 1950 Kansas City Star) notes that while he may have been an unsuccessful aspirant for public office, he was "active in the promotion of legislation designed to benefit veterans and their dependents."
   In 1950 Urcil Smoot once again entered the political field, announcing his candidacy for the Missouri State Senate from the 16th district. As the Democratic senatorial candidate, Smoot's opponent in that year's contest was incumbent Republican W.R. "Fred" Walker, who had served in the senate since 1942. Despite having run two previous losing candidacies for the legislature, Smoot's campaign was highlighted in the October 26, 1950 edition of the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune , which ran a large ad on his candidacy. This ad (shown below) touted his potential legislative agenda if he was elected, noting that:
  • He would sponsor legislation to promote "economy in government" whenever possible.
  • To build more roads in rural Missouri.
  • Improve the school system of every are in the state.
  • To stimulate progress for Missouri and all Missourians.
                                                    The Chillicothe Constitution Tribune, October 26, 1950.

   Despite a campaign promise to have his voting record guided by the welfare of "labor, veterans, farmers and the small business man"  it was W.R. Walker who emerged victorious, besting Smoot that November by a 2,099 vote margin, 19,663 to 17, 564. Following this defeat, he retired to private life in Lock Springs, and from 1952-54 was a member of the Daviess County Democratic Committee. Urcil Wilford Smoot died at age 57 on May 28, 1957 and was survived by his wife and two children. Following her death in 1988, Ruth E. Smoot was interred alongside her husband at the Jamesport Masonic Cemetery in Jamesport, Missouri.

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