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The Loss of Bill Smith

Longtime NYFWA member William (Bill) Smith passed away on May 2nd. Following is the obituary that ran in The New York Times:

William D. Smith, a former business reporter for The New York Times who covered the oil industry then worked for it as a media relations specialist for Exxon during the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, died on May 2 in Park Ridge, N.J. He was 79.

His daughter, Bronwyn McElroy, said the cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

As a business reporter, Mr. Smith, who joined The Times in 1962, covered the energy crisis in the early 1970s and accompanied the tanker Manhattan on the first successful commercial voyage through the Northwest Passage, a trans-Arctic shipping route that greatly sped up the transportation of Alaskan oil.

He also wrote about finance, computers and automobiles before leaving The Times in 1977 to become Exxon’s senior public affairs adviser.

He was sorely tested in that job when he addressed accusations of negligence against the company after the tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling millions of gallons of oil in one of the worst man-made ecological disasters of the 20th century.

Born in Newark on Dec. 16, 1935, William David Smith grew up in East Orange, N.J. He graduated from St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark and received a bachelor’s degree in English from Columbia in 1957.

He joined The Times after two years as an information specialist in the Army. He lived in Piermont, N.Y.

Besides his daughter, survivors include his wife, the former Maureen Jones; two sons, Alexander and Michael; and six grandchildren.