Ron Smith, RIP


The late, great Ron Smith

Both Reason and reason lost another friend last night, as longtime WBAL-AM radio host and Baltimore Sun columnist Ron Smith, "the voice of reason," passed away at age 70 after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer. From the WBAL write-up:

Ron shared his final days with his listeners telling them "don't mourn me".

Ron announced to his listeners on October 17 that he had been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer.

He underwent treatment at Johns Hopkins' Kimmel Cancer Center, but on November 17 told listeners that he would halt his chemotherapy treatments after consulting with his doctor and his wife, June.

On November 28, Ron announced he was retiring from his on air duties because of his declining health, and that he had begun home hospice care.

Ron also wrote a weekly column for the Baltimore Sun.

In his final column last month, Smith wrote, "What is a mere individual to do? Live as sane and decent a life as you can, love your family and friends and understand that everybody is in this together. My work here is done."

Reason writers appeared on Smith's show hundreds of times. I'll always remember Ron as someone who would keep up the conversation off-air during commercial break–only a little saltier, and more pessimistic about the country than he would normally let on–and then do a live commercial without missing a beat. More from the WBAL obit:

Although Ron's politics leaned to the right, Ron called himself a Libertarian and was critical of both Democrats and Republicans.

In 2003, Ron received national attention and criticism, when he told listeners he opposed the Iraq War.

Ron later described the days after the start of the war as the toughest in his career, and in his life. Ron said that his show lost listeners and advertisers, but he praised WBAL management for supporting him. […]

Ron's family, friends and colleagues have set up Team Reason, which is raising money for pancreatic cancer treatment and research at Johns Hopkins.

Donations to Team Reason are being accepted in Ron's memory.

Donation link is here. RIP.

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33 responses to “Ron Smith, RIP

  1. Wow, that happened fast. RIP, Mr. Smith.

  2. Listening to Ron was a part of my day for many years. His show was topical, educational, and entertaining. As Matt points out, Ron was pretty pessimistic, but he had a great sense of humor and could get downright silly laughing at “Absurdistan”. He called things as he saw them and was blatantly politically incorrect. His “voice of reason” was particularly important because WBAL is physically in the midst of Team Blue country. The station is eulogizing him all day today. Although others carry on, he will be missed greatly by many, including me.

  3. “…everybody is in this together…”

    Isn’t that a little bit socialist?

    1. Isn’t that a little bit socialist?

      Not if you don’t coerce them!

        1. Sorry. It’s like swatting at bugs….purely reflex.

          1. Do as we say, not as we do.

  4. Not to be insensitive, but donating to cure pancreatic cancer is a lost cause. Better to spend that money helping sick children.

    1. read…

      Stefansson, Vilhjalmur. Cancer: Disease of civilization? An anthropological and historical study; Hill and Wang, Inc., New York, 1960.

      1. Yes, wi, cancer is a disease of civilization because without civilization, starvation and pestilence tend to get you far before you can die of pancreatic cancer at 70.

        RIP Ron

        1. But you can comfort yourself with that lie.

          Rather, diseases of civilization are a result of agricultural diet, pollution, sedentarism, etc.

          Cancer is especially correlated to a a refined diet.

          1. Rather, diseases of civilization are a result of agricultural diet, pollution, sedentarism, etc.

            So just gambol and hunt, and you’ll live forever. Got it.

          2. Re: White Imbecile,

            Cancer is especially correlated to a a refined diet.

            And starvation is correlated to an uncatchable diet, which would make you cry like a little wussy girl if in your beloved “original affluent society.”

        2. Yes, wi, cancer is a disease of civilization….

          Don’t engage the fat computer programmer……!

    2. The donation is not so much in expectation of a cure as it is to honor Smith and let his surviving family members know that the donors cared about him.

      This isn’t about the pweshus chyldwun. It’s about an admired, intelligent, and even courageously honest man who led a productive life and battled a rapacious, aggressive predator that finally claimed him.

      Believe it or not, some of us find the lives of productive, thoughful, complex adults more interesting, and a greater loss when they die, than somebody’s snot-nosed little punk-ass brats. In the immortal words of George Carlin, “Fuck the children.”

      1. Looks like I’m in the wrong line of work. I should have started a charity that accepted donations to “honor” esteemed deceased; apparently all you have to do is take the money and don’t have to produce results.

        1. So, in other words, not much of a change from what you’re doing now.

          1. You know nothing about what I do, dude. So pack up the ad homs and respond to my argument.

            1. I’m sorry, what argument? For some bizarre reason, you seem to be under the impression that I said anything about the quality of work performed at a cancer research charity.

              It seems you’ve never made a donation in memory of someone. I have, many times. When I do, it has very little to do with expecting a cure for disease to come out of it, and everything to do with honoring the deceased in a way that is more purposeful and less burdensome to the survivors than sending flowers.

              All I said was that donations are primarily about honoring the deceased. I didn’t say that was because disease research charities are ineffective. You decided you wanted to fling some dung around your cage, so you willfully interpreted my post to contain a statement about the efficacy of cancer research charities that simply isn’t there.

              Please go try and start a fight with someone else now, mmkay?

  5. Is it just me or are there always a lot more notable deaths in December than any other month?

    Kim Jong Il, Havel, Hitchens, now Smith

    1. Don’t forget Baby Jesus. Killed in the War!

  6. He

    1. Worst. Haiku. Ever.

  7. This is sad news. I listened to Ron for several years when he worked the afternoon drive. He was great about addressing issues head on, not shying away from difficult questions for his guests, left or right, and not descending into a lot of the typical, lazy rhetorical tricks so common of right-wing radio hosts. He was one of the good guys.

  8. This dude really does make a whole lot of sense man. Wow.

  9. I am stunned. That happened so fast. Ron was one of the few truly libertarian voices in talk radio and now he’s gone. I am going to miss him.

    I am so saddened by this.

  10. He will be missed. He was so independent and willing to speak his mind and just stood on his principles and beliefs all the time. Talk radio is diminished by his loss.

    WBAL ( is running a tribute to him all day and the clips they are playing are great – everything from very serious stuff to some hysterically funny clips. Great retrospective on his career if you are so inclined to listen.

  11. So he went out almost like David Brudnoy?

    1. Ironically enough, yes. Ironic because both admired each other and had very similar approaches to how they did the same job. They were the gold standard, I can only hope (for my sanity) their likes will be seen again.

  12. poor ron if he saw most of these responses what would he say?

    1. I don’t think Ron would be surprised by any comments. He took pride in calling himself “cynical” but I found him to be very practical and realistic. Perhaps that is just my cynicism. RIP Ron, you will be missed.

  13. Johns Hopkins recently hired a pancreatic MD. You can earmark donations towards his efforts. Yes, when you figure out you have the PC, you are likely done, the trick is coming up with a way to disseminate its symptoms from that of common stomach ailments.

  14. Con’t … PC is very treatable if it is caught early, problem is it never is… Hopefully through Ron and team Reason, screening can be created. So no, sick children have enough help.

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