Alson H. Smith, Jr '47 | Handley 100th Anniversary Notable
Alson H. Smith, Jr ’47

Al Smith was born near Cedar Grove in northern Frederick County at the beginning of the Depression. His father died when he was 7 and years later he moved in with his uncle to attend Handley High School in Winchester.

Al worked his way through school delivering groceries, pumping gas and pruning apple trees for H. F. Byrd orchards. When he was not working, he ran track for Handley. He won the 440 yard dash and 880 yard dash at the state meet in both his junior and senior year.

After graduation from Handley, he served in the United States Army as a Corporal in the 354th Military Police Company. He was stationed in Newfoundland during the Korean conflict.

Al bought his first Tastee-Freez franchise in 1954. Through his company, Shenandoah Foods, Inc., he eventually owned 100 units in Virginia, West Virginia, and portions of Pennsylvania.

He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1974 and served for 20 years. He was chair of the House Democratic Caucus and was known for his ability to work with individuals from both sides of the aisle and often played the role of peacemaker.

He was also known for his ability to raise money quickly and in large amounts. As chief fundraiser for the 1981 Virginia gubernatorial campaign of Charles S. Robb, he raised more than $2.5 million, most of it from groups that had previously backed Republicans exclusively.

Al was very active in the community. He served as president of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival twice and won the Shenandoah Valley Bowl for Tourism twice.

He chaired the Board of Trustees at Shenandoah University and was instrumental in the creation of the Alson H. Smith, Jr. Library. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from the university.

He was a member of the Winchester Medical Center Board of Directors, Chair and board member of the Durell Foundation, board member of Virginia Environmental Endowment and a board member of First Bank.

Virginia Tech recognized his work with the creation of the Alson H. Smith, Jr Agricultural Research and Extension Center as did Laurel Ridge Community College with the naming of the Alson H. Smith, Jr. Technology Center.

He was named Outstanding Virginian of the Year in 2000.

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