The Jack and Denise Smith Community Enrichment Award ($1000) honors an individual who has enriched the community of Los Angeles by their dedicated service and accomplishments.
Born in Long Beach, California, Jack Smith grew up in Bakersfield and graduated from Belmont High School in Los Angeles, where he was the editor of the student newspaper. He attended Bakersfield College and, after working in the Civilian Conservation Corps, he joined the Merchant Marines at the age of 21 in 1937. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Marines and was part of the assault on Iwo Jima as a combat correspondent. Jack Smith’s journalism career began as a reporter for the Bakersfield Californian, the Honolulu Advertiser, and the Daily News. He began writing for the Los Angeles Times in 1953 and moved to a regular column in 1958. Over a thirty-year period he wrote over 6,000 columns and ten books, including The Big Orange, God and Mr. Gomez, and Jack Smith’s LA.
Jack met his future wife Denise “Denny” Bresson in Bakersfield. They married shortly after her graduation from high school. While he worked the night news desk of the Honolulu Advertiser, she was a communications secretary for Radio Corp. of America. After raising their two sons, she worked for United Way and then for twenty-six years worked for the Southern California Counseling Center.
With the exception of the two article awards which will be given in alternating years, the awards for HSSC have been suspended as the organization focuses on supporting the publication of the Southern California Quarterly.
Janet Fireman, Curator, Emerita, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times columnist