Gene Smith Dies at 83; Wrote Biographies of World Leaders
Gene Smith, who with a vivid touch depicted the lives of presidents, prime ministers and generals in a series of popular biographies, among them the 1964 best seller “When the Cheering Stopped: The Last Years of Woodrow Wilson,” died on July 25 at his home in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 83.
The cause was bone cancer, his daughter, Jessica Smith, said.
Of Mr. Wilson’s fading days after eight years in office, Mr. Smith wrote how the former president, long debilitated by a stroke and respiratory problems, had sought solace in the countryside:
“He took with him an old cape bought years ago in Scotland and even on warm days wore it around his shoulders beneath the long, thin face. A cap was always on his head. He was like some apparition from the past, from Yesterday, coming along the road in his big, old open car with two small W’s painted where once the Seal of the President had been.”
In tracing Wilson’s last years, “When the Cheering Stopped” chronicles the death of the president’s first wife, Ellen Axson Wilson, in August 1914; his courtship of the Washington widow Edith Bolling Galt and their subsequent marriage in December 1915; his triumphal reception in Europe after World War I; and his failed campaign for American membership in the League of Nations.
But as the critic Orville Prescott wrote in The New York Times, “The personal tragedy of Wilson’s fateful illness is the principal subject” of the book, “not so much its political and historical significance.”...
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