David Clayton Smith was born November 14, 1929 in Lewiston, Maine. His mother, Ella Churchill Smith, was a worker in a florist shop during World War II. His father, originally from Norway, died when he was quite young. Smith grew up in South Paris, Maine, until he joined the Navy in 1948 during the Korean War. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine at Farmington, where he was mentored by Gwil Roberts, and attended Cornell for his doctorate. Smith developed an interest in history when he was in the Navy and spent a lot of time reading from the libraries on the ships. He became involved in local politics as a city chairman, and as a historian knew a good deal about Maine politics. He hosted a fundraiser breakfast for Jimmy Carter when he was the Democratic nominee for president in 1974. He has been a professor of History at the University of Maine in Orono for about thirty years.
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L'Hommedieu, Andrea, "Smith, David C. oral history interview" (2003). Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection. 365.