Former HOF exec dies


Don Smith, longtime VP of Public Relations, worked for Hall of Fame for 29 years

Former Pro Football Hall of Fame executive Don Smith died Sunday, September 12, in Tucson, Arizona, after a lengthy illness. He was 84. Smith began his career at the Hall of Fame in 1968 as director of public relations. He was promoted to Vice President-Public Relations in 1979, a position he held until his 1997 retirement. 

Prior to joining the Hall of Fame staff, Smith, a former Hudson, Colorado native and World War II veteran, held positions with the Denver Bears baseball team, the University of Denver athletic department, the Western Athletic Conference, the Denver Broncos, and the New Orleans Saints.

Smith’s major assignments at the Hall of Fame were to increase Hall of Fame awareness, oversee attendance growth, and to expand and improve the museum’s exhibition areas, all of which were accomplished during his long tenure. Sparked by his national publicity campaign, the Hall of Fame’s attendance ballooned from just over 58,000 in 1968 to more than 330,000 in 1973. Smith was also intimately involved in three successful major building expansions in 1971, 1978, and 1995 that saw the dramatically-improved museum grow from 19,000 to 82,000 square feet. Additionally, Smith served as administrator for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s highly-regarded selection system for election of new members.

A graduate of the University of Denver with a degree in Journalism, Smith was the author of two books, Pro Football All-Time Greats and Encyclopedia of Football and the co-author of another, Their Deeds and Dogged Faith. He was also the inventor of the often-cited Passer Rating System that has been used by the National Football League since 1973. 

Smith is survived by his wife Helen, daughter Melissa, and sons Ron and Rich.

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