New book by ACU author


For Immediate Release
Sept. 27, 1999

Sadie Smith took the time to write the letter "R" on all the bindings of books with articles published by her deceased husband, Ralph Smith.

When describing her husband's work, she ran her fingers slowly across the bindings of a countless number of books, across the hours of hard work, across tedious amounts of historical research, across countless number of R's and across a major part of her husband's life: history, not only of others, but his own as well.

On July 4,1998, Ralph Smith, professor emeritus of history at ACU, died from a brain tumor. Three days later, his wife, Sadie Smith, received the much-awaited news that she and her husband had been waiting on for over a year: Ralph Smith's book, "Borderlanders," would finally be published.

"Borderlanders," is a biography about James Kirker, an Indian bounty hunter. According to the "Borderlanders" book synopsis, Kirker became known throughout the west for his effective and inexpensive methods of killing Indians.

Ralph Smith spent forty years researching and gathering information about Kirker.

"I knew it ["Borderlanders"] would be the most exhaustive piece of southwestern Borderlands research that has ever been written," said Steve Wilson, publisher of The Great South Plains Journal, in which Smith had several articles published.

He sometimes went through strenuous measures to get what he needed. For example, Ralph Smith spent months translating a book from Old Spanish to English to accumulate more information about Kirker.

"He had the patience of Job," Sadie Smith said. "He stayed with a thing until he was satisfied and had it correct."

Kirker immigrated from Ireland to New York in 1810. He was known for his effectiveness and experience in killing Indians.

In the past, Kirker has been presented as inhumane. But Ralph Smith depicts Kirker as hero and shows that the people of Kirker's day looked to him as a brave and valuable person.

Sadie Smith stresses the fact that, in everything, her husband wanted to be as accurate as possible. He was very meticulous about his work, Smith said.

"He wanted everything in absolute fact," she said. Sadie Smith said they both anticipated the publishing of his book. She grieves over the fact that he did not live to see his book published.

"I think that he would be pleased with the result of his work," Wilson said.

Sadie Smith and her daughter are currently working on finishing and publishing a second book Ralph Smith was writing. The book is about pioneers who lived in dugouts, which were the first homes built in the ground.

Ralph Smith taught for a combination of 46 years. Thirty of those years were at ACU.

Dr. Dwayne Hale, a former student of Smith and history teacher at Cisco Jr. College, wrote an autobiographical article about Smith. In this article he refers to him as a "Gentleman, Educator and Scholar."

Ralph and Sadie Smith were married 58 years. "I wish he could have lived to see our 60th wedding anniversary," Smith said.

"Borderlanders" can be purchased from University of Oklahoma Press by calling (800) 627-7377.

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Last update: Oct. 6, 1999
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