Smith served Oregonians for decades. He was elected to the Oregon House in 1960. After six terms he retired in 1972, only to return to politics—this time at the federal level in 1983. There he served until 1995. Smith retired then, but only briefly.
His successor, Wes Cooley, was caught lying about his military record. At the urging of Republicans, Smith came out of retirement to return to Congress in 1997. He was named Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and retired for good after one term, returning to Medford to further serve in his community.
Former Oregon 2nd District Director John Snider said, “He was a gentleman through and through. He was kind, he was generous, he cared about his constituents deeply. He made friends wherever he went. People who opposed him still respected him because he treated them with respect.”
Smith was 89 years old. He is survived by his wife Kaye and their three children as well as his six grandchildren—all girls—who live here in the Rogue Valley.
All of us at NBC5 News wish to extend our deepest sympathies to the entire Smith family.
Congressman Greg Walden issued the following statement about Smith:
“Chairman Robert ‘Bob’ Freeman Smith was a one-of-kind rancher, legislator and advocate for the eastern Oregon way of life. He was also my friend and mentor whom I first met tagging along to the state Capitol with my father when Bob was Speaker of the Oregon House and I was about 13 years old. He was a towering figure then and will remain so through the many chapters of Oregon and American history he helped author. Mylene and I will keep Kaye and the whole Smith family in our thoughts and prayers as we celebrate a life well lived and a public servant proudly remembered.”