Clint Ernest Smith, 86, a retired Foreign Service officer, passed away peacefully on May 25 at his home in Palo Alto. He is held in loving memory by his wife Marilyn Sode Smith; his children Paula (Paul Tjossem) of Grinnell, Iowa; Rosemary (Charles Frederick Williams) of Pocatello, Idaho; Alexandra (Franz Brotzen) of Houston, Texas; and Clint Norman Smith (Elizabeth Arndorfer) of Palo Alto. Clara, Clint Thomas, Daley, Eric, Franz, Nora, and Sode remember thoughtful conversations with their grandfather on chess, world politics, Greek mythology, detective fiction, sports, and the London stage.
Clint was born in 1930 to Clint Galen Smith and Vene White Smith of Las Cruces, New Mexico. He was also very close to his uncle and aunt, Noel and Patty Blazer of Berkeley, California, with whom he lived during his father’s wartime service in the Army. The Blazers encouraged the intellectual bent and love of reading that led Clint to become at 14 the youngest founding member of San Francisco’s Sherlock Holmes society, The Scowrers.
After graduating from Las Cruces High School, he earned his undergraduate degree at the University of New Mexico and participated in the Naval ROTC program. He served in the Navy from 1953 to 1956 on ships that went to Japan and Korea, and to the Marshall Islands (Bikini/Eniwetok) while nuclear tests were conducted.
Following active military service, he obtained a Master’s degree in communications and journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1957 he was selected to enter the Foreign Service, and in the same year he met Marilyn Sode, a graduate of UC Berkeley. They married on October 19, 1957 and went on to enjoy a vital and loving partnership of 59 years.
The Smiths lived in Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Peru, and Romania as they moved their growing family from one foreign post to another, interspersed with assignments in Washington, D.C. At the State Department in 1962, Clint contributed to the sensitive work of photo-interpretation during the Cuban Missile Crisis. During his diplomatic career, he continued as an officer in the Naval Reserve, retiring at the rank of Commander.
In 1981, after serving in Bucharest, Romania, he retired from the Foreign Service to begin a new career as a research scholar at Stanford University and Program Officer for Education with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. He taught courses at Stanford as a consulting Professor of Latin American Studies and authored or co-edited multiple books, including two monographs, The Disappearing Border and Inevitable Partnership. He helped to launch initiatives such as Stanford’s Project on US-Mexico Relations, PROFMEX, and the North American Forum. In more than 30 years of teaching, awarding foundation support, and offering career advice, he fostered the success of many who gratefully recall his mentoring.
A private family memorial will be held. Charitable contributions in memory of Clint E. Smith may be directed to the Stanford Women’s Basketball program or to Planned Parenthood, two groups he appreciated and supported.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Oct. 8, 2017