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James Ward Smith ’38 *42

Published in Nov. 3, 1999, issue

James Ward Smith '38 *42 died from emphysema on September 26, at the Medical Center at Princeton. He was 82.

A political philosopher known for dramatic lectures, Smith taught Philosophy and the Modern Mind for 30 years. It was the most popular course in the philosophy department.

Smith earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton in 1942, and returned to the university four years later, after serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II and earning the Bronze Star and seven battle stars for courage under fire.

In 1947 he joined the Princeton faculty. Smith's advanced course, Philosophical Foundations of Democracy, examined the concepts of rights, freedom, equality, and justice. Students often gave him standing ovations at his packed lectures, and over the years many of his charges went on to become important figures in the field. From 1955 through 1961 he chaired Princeton's Program of American Civilization. He also served as secretary of the American Philosphical Society.

Smith authored Theme for Reason (1957) and coedited (with A. Leland Jamison) the four-volume study Religion in American Life (1961). He retired in 1987.

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