Kathryn Elizabeth Smith
Kathryn Elizabeth Smith (May 1, 1907 – June 17, 1986), known professionally as Kate Smith and The First Lady of Radio.
Smith was a singer, a contralto, best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America". She had a radio, television, and recording career spanning five decades, which reached its pinnacle in the 1940s. Smith became known as The Songbird of the South after her enduring popularity during World War II and contribution to American culture and patriotism. Smith was a major star of radio, usually backed by Jack Miller's Orchestra. She began with her twice-a-week NBC series, Kate Smith Sings (quickly expanded to six shows a week), followed by a series of shows for CBS: Kate Smith and Her Swanee Music (1931–33), sponsored by La Palina Cigars; The Kate Smith Matinee (1934–35); The Kate Smith New Star Revue (1934–35); Kate Smith's Coffee Time (1935–36), sponsored by A&P; and The Kate Smith A&P Bandwagon (1936–37). Smith also starred in two concurrent television programs in the early 1950s. The Kate Smith Hour on NBC Television from 1950 through 1954, hosting until 1953 in the late afternoon hour of 4:00 pm ET. James Dean and Audrey Hepburn made early acting appearances on the show. Smith also starred in the weekly The Kate Smith Evening Hour which included a rare American TV appearance by Josephine Baker as well as the only major filmed footage of Hank Williams. Smith continued on the Mutual Broadcasting System, CBS, ABC, and NBC, doing both music and talk shows on radio until 1960. Kate Smith released dozens of successful 78rpm singles during the 1930s and 1940s. She recorded sporadically during the 1950s but in 1963 signed a contract with RCA Victor Records releasing a number of successful albums including several that charted on the Billboard Hot 200 chart alongside the major rock stars of the era, usually with Smith, then well in to her fifties, the oldest performer on the charts. In 1967 she had her first new hit record in many years when "Anyone Can Move A Mountain" peaked at #30 pn Billboard's Easy Listening Hits chart in July 1967.
Smith, who never married, rented several apartments in Manhattan during her long career. She had a home in Arlington, Virginia, and kept a summer home on a small island in Lake Placid, New York. In her later years, Smith was impaired by diabetes. In 1976, she suffered brain damage after slipping into a diabetic coma. In January 1986, Kate's right leg was amputated due to poor circulation caused by diabetes. Five months later, she underwent a mastectomy. On June 17, 1986, Smith died of respiratory arrest at Raleigh Community Hospital in Raleigh at the age of 79. She is interred at St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands, NY.