Robert Morris Smith

Date of Birth

August 10th, 1937

Date of Death

March 13th, 2012

Memorial Meeting

Multnomah Friends Meeting


Robert Morris Smith, long-time Friend, social activist and member of Multnomah Monthly Meeting, died March 13, 2012. A memorial service was held on March 31, 2012.

Robert was a Friend by convincement, but his family had deep Quaker roots.  He was born August 10, 1937 in Crawfordsville, Indiana to Morris and Madge Catterlin Smith and graduated from Indiana University in 1949. Robert was an active member of First Friends Church of Indianapolis, Friends United meeting, until he resigned in protest of the Meeting’s refusal to accept an African-American family’s request for membership.

In the early 1950's, Robert spent two years in alternate service as a conscientious objector to the Korean War.  During this period he participated in an unprogrammed worship group affiliated with the Lake Erie Association of Friends.

After moving to Portland in 1963, Robert became active in politics, working toward the election of influentially progressive candidates and chairing this city’s first march protesting the Vietnam War.  Robert was centrally involved in the struggle for gay rights.  He served as regional Vice Chair of the Gay and Lesbian Caucus of the Democratic National Party in 1980, and obtained the charter for the Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club of Oregon.  He was a founding member of the Portland Town Council, the Aids foundation, Right to Privacy, and Love Makes a Family.

Robert represented Quakers on the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon board, as treasurer and member of the public policy committee.  He was treasurer of the regional Fellowship of Reconciliation, and a founding board member of the Oregon Peace Institute.  He served on the board of the American Friends Service Committee for the Northwest Region, and on the Peace Committee for many years. 

Robert worked as a financial director for child care and mental health.  He chaired the Multnomah County Commission on the Aging and was treasurer for the National Day Care and Child Development Council of America.

Those who spent time with Robert were treated to conversations of impressive depth and breadth.  His memory for names, places and events, and his probing interest in history, religion, politics and world affairs, were unparalleled.  Strength of character describes Robert, and yet he remained warm, appreciative, and gracious to those who moved through his life.