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In memory: ASU alum, Ariz. historian Dean Smith

July 17, 2012

Prolific writer, historian, storyteller and ASU alumnus Dean Smith, who wrote "The Sun Devils: Eight Decades of Arizona State Football" (1979), among many other titles, died July 7 at Banner Desert Medical Center. He was 89.

"Arizona and especially Tempe have lost a fine writer, historian and storyteller – Dean Smith, the prolific author of more than 20 books, many of them specialized histories of our state," wrote Lawn Griffiths in a July 12 special feature that appeared in the East Valley Tribune.

Smith was an Arizonan for more than seven decades, a frequent contributor to Arizona Highways magazine, and a book editor for the University of Arizona Press. He explored his state's lesser-known places and history in one of the last books he ever wrote: "Arizona Nuggets." The book is a popular title around the state, available on, and has been updated this year with a new Centennial Edition.

"Many of the thousands of copies of 'Arizona Nuggets' were distributed to Arizona schools, and Dean gave the Kiwanis Club of Friendship Village rights to sell 'Arizona Nuggets' as a fundraiser," writes Griffiths.

A Kansas native raised in Glendale, Smith attended Arizona State University when the institution was known by a different name: Arizona State College. He received his bachelor's degree in 1947 and later returned to earn an MBA in 1971.

After serving as a sports writer for the Glendale News and the Mesa Tribune, he worked as the sports information director for ASU from 1950 to 1952. Smith covered Sun Devil Athletics as a sports writer for the Arizona Republic from 1952 to 1959, when he rejoined his alma mater, becoming director of publications.

"He retired from ASU in 1984, then turned to independently writing and producing his long string of Arizona books," writes Griffiths. His 22 books include:

• "Tempe: Arizona Crossroads"

• "The Goldwaters of Arizona"

• "Arizona Pathways"

• "The Meteor Crater Story"

• "Arizona Goes to War"

• "Arizona Ghost Towns and Mining Camps"

• "Barry Goldwater: The Biography of a Conservative"

• "Brothers Five" – a history of the Babbitts of Arizona

A memorial service for Smith is scheduled for 10 a.m., July 28, at Skirm Auditorium at Friendship Village, located at 2625 E. Southern Ave., in Tempe.