Preston Earnest Smith

Portrait of Preston Earnest Smith Headstone Photograph

and Mrs. Preston

The People's Governor

Preston Earnest
March 8, 1912
October 18, 2003

Governor of Texas 1969 - 1973
Lieutenant Governor 1963 - 1969
Texas State Senate 1957 - 1963
Texas House of Representatives 1945 - 1951
Distinguished Alumni of Texas Tech University
Distinguished Alumni of Lamesa High School
Thirty-Third Degree Mason

Married June 20, 1935

Ima Mae Smith
October 11, 1920
August 29, 1998

First Lady of Texas 1969 - 1973
Distinguished Alumni of Texas Tech Univ
Elementary Teacher
Commity and State Volunteer
Loving Wife
Devoted Mother
Doting Grandmother "Baba"

Back of headstone

Parents of
Preston Michael Smith Jan Lauren Smith

Grandparents of

Kelly Michelle Smith Preston Conrad Smith
Robert Preston Schmid Lauren Taylor

What we do for ourselves
dies with us.
What we do for others
and the world remains and is immortal.
Albert Pike
Full Name: Preston Earnest Smith
Location: Section:Republic Hill, Section 2 (C2)
Row:Q  Number:1
Reason for Eligibility: Member, Texas House of Representatives; Member and President Pro Tempore, Texas Senate; Lieutenant Governor of Texas; Governor of Texas; Member, Texas College and University Coordinating Board 
Birth Date: March 8, 1912 
Died: October 18, 2003 
Burial Date: October 21, 2003 

SMITH, PRESTON EARNEST (1912–2003). Preston Earnest Smith, businessman, legislator, and the fortieth governor of Texas, was born on March 8, 1912, in Williamson County. He was the son of Charles Kirby Smith and Effie Smith. One of thirteen children, he grew up in Williamson County until he was twelve, when his family moved to Lamesa in Dawson County, where he graduated from Lamesa High School in 1930.

Smith attended and was graduated from Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) with a bachelor of business arts degree in 1934. While in one of his college classes, he was seated alphabetically next to Ima Smith (no relation). Preston Smith and Ima Smith married in 1935. They had two children.

Smith became active in the movie theater business in Lubbock as well as real estate enterprises and developed the political name recognition he needed to win election in 1944 to the Texas House of Representatives. A conservative Democrat, Smith served three terms in the House and in 1956 was elected to the Texas Senate. In 1962, the same year that John B. Connally was elected governor, Smith was elected lieutenant governor.

In 1968, when Connally chose not to seek reelection, Smith sought and won the Democratic nomination for the governorship amongst a crowded field of candidates. Smith was known for his polka dot neckties, which he claimed he began wearing in 1962 after Gov. Price Daniel urged Smith to do something to help make himself stand out. During the 1968 gubernatorial campaign, Smith's campaign sent letters to approximately 47,000 Texas families named Smith and asked, "Don't you think it is about time one of us was governor?"

Known for his relentless work ethic and corny sense of humor, Smith was the first lieutenant governor to be directly elected to the governorship and the first West Texan to be elected. He was inaugurated as governor on January 16, 1969, and was re-elected to a second term in 1970.

During his first term, Smith focused on education issues, including a ten-year pay raise program for teachers. His administration also submitted a state water plan, which failed to pass.

Smith's governorship in his second term was tainted by the Sharpstown stock-fraud scandal, which initially focused on charges that state officials profited from certain business deals in exchange for the passage of legislation favored by Houston developer Frank Sharp. Though Smith was never charged with a crime, he was "labeled an unindicted coconspirator," and the scandal grew to such proportions that Texas voters were in an anti-incumbent mood. Smith ran and lost in the 1972 Democratic primary to Dolph Briscoe, Jr. of Uvalde, who would go on to win the general election and be sworn in as Smith's successor in January, 1973. Smith unsuccessfully attempted a comeback in 1978 and retired from politics.

After his political career ended, Smith retired to Lubbock. He remained active in local business and civic affairs and worked as a fundraiser for Texas Tech University. His papers are in the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library at the university library. (As governor he had signed into law the legislation that established the Texas Tech University School of Medicine.) In 1981 Gov. William Clements appointed him to the Texas College and University Coordinating Board, where he served as chairman until 1985. Texas Tech University honored Smith by erecting a statue of him in the Administration Building courtyard on the campus.

Smith died from pneumonia at Texas Tech University Medical Center in Lubbock on October 18, 2003, at the age of ninety-one. His wife Ima had died in 1998. He was survived by a son, a daughter, and their respective families. Smith was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. The city of Lubbock honored Smith by renaming its airport the Preston Smith International Airport in 2004.

Jimmy Banks, Money, Marbles, and Chalk: The Wonderous World of Texas Politics (Austin: Texas Publishing Company, 1971). Houston Chronicle, October 19, 2003. Richard Morehead, Fifty Years in Texas Politics: From Roosevelt to Reagan, from the Fergusons to Clements (Austin: Eakin Press, 1982). Preston E. Smith Papers, 1930–1975 and undated, Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.


Handbook of Texas Online, George Slaughter, "SMITH, PRESTON EARNEST," accessed November 18, 2019,

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