Greens mourn passing of Kent Smith, one of the co-founders of the Green Party of California

Kent Smith
June 16, 1941-Feb. 18, 2008

NEVADA CITY, Ca. – Kent Smith, one of the founders of the Green Party of California, died here February 18 – and as is fitting his legacy, a major peace protest was held at about the same time as a celebration of his life on Sunday, March 16, according to family and friends.
Mr. Smith, who was 66 when he passed away at his home, is recognized as one of the founders of the Green Party of California. He attended the first state meeting of Greens in Fresno in 1989 with about two dozen others, and was one of the organizers of a meeting in Sacramento in 1990 where Greens decided to found the official Green Party of California.
In 1992, after more than 100,000 people were registered to the fledgling party, Mr. Smith was the one who accepted the state-sealed declaration from the Secretary of State for the Green Party. He ran for state and U.S. Senate in the early 1990's, garnering more than 30,000 votes. Mr. Smith also played a key role in the first Planetary Meeting of Greens in Rio de Janeiro in May 1992, and helped create the Federation of Green Parties of the Americas.
According to GPCA unofficial historian Michael Feinstein, when California Greens met for the first time statewide, it was in Eugene, Oregon at the annual meeting of the then-national Greens organization, the Greens Committees of Correspondence. At that meeting a caucus of more than 50 Greens from around California gathered and met again in November 1989 to discuss statewide coordination for the first time on common issues, but also on whether they should start a formal Green Party in California. The group decided that it was interested in possibly pursuing ballot status for the Green Party in California and appointed Kent and Roger Picklum of Oakland to work with the California Secretary of State’s office on the matter.
“Kent came forward by his competence and made himself a logical choice for the task – again repeating the pattern of creating and seizing opportunity – the pattern of a real leader,” said Feinstein.
As it turned out, said Feinstein, that there were competing applications for the right to qualify the Green Party for ballot status between 1990 and 1999, including a group representing a “cult” from Argentina set up a mirror, fake Green Parties in Europe and North America had failed miserably between 1988 and 1990 to qualify the Green Party in California. And then there were ‘real’ Greens who had met in November in Fresno.
But the Secretary of State really did not want to choose between them. In response, Mr. Smith again took a leadership role, read between the lines of what he was told by the Secretary of State and put in a third application – a “unity” Green application in the name of “all” Greens in California. It was that application that the Secretary of State chose and it was under that approach that the Green Party of California was founded.
“Here again was a case where Kent saw opportunity and acted quite boldly, but successfully. In retrospect, many Greens might have said that he should have consulted with ‘the group’ beforehand. But sometimes there are moments that require executive action, because even in the most consensus-oriented groups and movements, reality demands timeliness. And this was a time when Kent stepped up and did the right thing in our name. Others might not have had the guts to act solo in such a moment. But Kent did and we were better off for it,” said Feinstein.
Mr. Smith was born June 16, 1941, in San Jose. He received his bachelor's degree in American history from Stanford University; master's degree in history and Ph.D. in diplomatic history from the University of California, Berkeley. He was a professor at several California Universities, teaching history, international relations and MBA marketing and management.
Mr. Smith held many leadership positions in various organizations involving the peace and civil rights movement in the 1960s and '70s. In 1988 he moved to Nevada County, built his own "Walden" cabin in a spiritual community near Grass Valley and lived without running water, electricity or plumbing for 12 years.
As a graduate student, Mr. Smith was a leading organizer of non-violent resistance to the Vietnam War and dedicated activist in the Civil Right Movement. He served as Field Secretary of the War Resisters League.
One of his last political efforts was organizing Americans for Constitutional Integrity, a group dedicated to the Impeachment of President George W. Bush. He co-authored the resolution approved by the GPCA calling for Bush’s impeachment.
“During the initial GPCA ballot drive efforts, Kent and I tabled together in Nevada County, registering over 1,000 Greens between us. The earlier Green Alliance was very strong here, with sometimes more than 100 people at gatherings. It slowly transitioned to Green Party when ballot status was achieved, becoming smaller, but with more focused ballot and issue campaigns,” said Beth Moore, a longtime Green Party activist and friend of Mr. Smith.
Beth continues: “Our new local Green Party rallied around Kent during his 1992 state senate campaign, with our ‘$1000 pennies-a-plate’ fundraiser dinner, concerts, and hilarious candidate practice drill sessions with Kent on a mike and us peppering him with reporter-style questioning to get him ready! With 3,000 Greens in the district, Kent gathered over 30,000 votes against the shoe-in, corporate-funded Republican incumbent. We were so proud!
“He could command the room with his powerful, statesman’s voice, confident style and well-worded reasoning. Kent had a big, warm laugh, twinkling blue eyes and a genuine smile. He enjoyed joking, and dancing, and was witty in political debate. Kent and I were sometimes allies, sometimes adversaries, but I was so grateful for his efforts building the GP. He impacted me, and he mattered to us in his way. I think that's what counts, in the long run.”
She said that, at the historic moment when then-Secretary of State March Fong Eu declared the Green Party had for the first time ever received ballot status in CA, it was Kent Smith to whom she handed her official state-sealed declaration, and he triumphantly presented it to a proud Green Party of California delegation at the first ever state meeting soon after.
Mr. Smith was among the first “pioneers” in global Green communication, said Feinstein, noting that Mr. Smith played an important role at the first planetary meeting of Greens in Rio De Janeiro in May, 1992 immediately preceding setting up the first global Greens Bulletin, and a key player in organizing cooperation between Green parties in Canada, Mexico and the US, helping to create CANAMEX, the organization between Greens in the three countries, which led today to the FPVA, the Federation of the Green Parties of the Americas
“Kent was challenged about his one time assertion that Greens should run to win. Why then did he run for State Senate in '92, which he could not win, when he could win a local race? He received 32,000 votes and 10 percent in his race, and argued that his campaign had actually built the party because it got many people involved and improved the chances that some of them might run in future local races,” reported Feinstein.
“Kent was my mentor, and mentored many others, in the early days. I am saddened by his death but the good things he did for us will always be remembered,” said Hank Chapot, a Bay Area Green.
I remember Kent well. After knowing Kent I was MUCH more committed to making something of the Green Party. He was one of the very few guys that really had much impact on my life,” said Tian Harter, another Green activist.
Mr. Smith enjoyed tennis, soccer, trips to the family cabin, international travel, reading, writing (he authored/co-authored two books), meditating, art, walking the streets of Nevada City, attending cultural events and spending time with his family.
Mr. Smith is survived by his life partner, Lynn Ely; daughters and sons-in-law Micaela Rubalcava and Jeff Cunan, of Quincy, and Gabrielle Smith-Dluha and Radovan Dluhy-Smith, of the Czech Republic; grandchildren Luis, Che and Miles Rubalcava-Cunan, Jacob Dluhy-Smith, Teo Dluhy-Smith and Olivia Dluha; brother and sister-in-law, Dan and Hannah Smith, of Walnut Creek; sisters and brothers-in-law Nancy and Mike Anderson, of Grass Valley, and Elaine and John Culverwell, of Fremont, and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ralph J. Smith and Louise Dally Smith. Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice of the Foothills. A celebration of life was held Sunday, March 16 at 2 p.m. at the Nevada City Memorial Building, 415 N. Pine St. Nevada City.
See the following webpages for a wealth of information on Kent:
Kent Warner Smith on Wikipedia
Kent Smith/GPCA Strategy Committee documents, 1990-1991
August 1990
December 1991