Col. Thomas Spence Smith, 87, Md. State Police superintendent

February 12, 2005|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,SUN STAFF

Col. Thomas Spence Smith, the longest-serving Maryland State Police superintendent in history, died in his sleep Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 87.

Colonel Smith, who passed away at Genesis Spa Creek Center in Annapolis, also was the first career state police officer to attain the rank of superintendent. He joined the force in 1940, five years after the police agency was formed.

In 1970, he was appointed superintendent by Gov. Marvin Mandel and served for 12 years until his retirement.

In 1972, Colonel Smith led hundreds of tactical troopers in gaining control of the House of Correction in Jessup, scene of the worst prison riot in the state's history. Police forced back inmates who tried to escape, put out fires and locked down the prison.

Two years later, he made the decision to admit women to the force.

"He was a quiet, confident leader," said Greg Shipley, state police spokesman. "He was always regarded as a gentleman."

Gov. Harry Hughes, the third of three governors Colonel Smith served, said, "He was really a dedicated policeman who contributed a lot. He was a policeman's policeman."

Colonel Smith was born in Snow Hill on the Eastern Shore, moving to Annapolis with his family as a boy. He attended St. John's College in Annapolis, majoring in economics and government, and graduated from the FBI National Academy.

In 1951, while working in criminal investigations, he was chosen to work with a U.S. Senate committee, led by Sen. C. Estes Kefauver, in its probe of organized crime.

In 1969, while serving as commander of field operations, he started the medevac helicopter system that ferries injured people throughout the state to trauma hospitals. A year later, he led more than 1,000 law enforcement officers and National Guard members in breaking up student demonstrations on U.S. 1 in College Park.

After his retirement, he remained a familiar presence in law enforcement circles. He was a member of the Maryland State Police Alumni Association, attended police academy graduations and was present last April at the swearing in of Col. Thomas E. "Tim" Hutchins as superintendent, said Shipley.

He enjoyed boating, tennis, crabbing and golf. He was a member of the Maryland Chiefs of Police, Maryland Law Enforcement Officers, Fraternal Order of Police and International Association of Chiefs of Police.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 19 at Towson United Methodist Church, 501 Hampton Lane.

In addition to his wife, the former Virginia Schmidt Ehreke, Colonel Smith is survived by two sons, Thomas S. Smith IV of Rochester, N.Y., and Barry B. Smith of Bonita Springs, Fla.; a stepson, Scott L. Ehreke of Yukon, Okla.; a stepdaughter, Pamela E. Mayberry of Arnold; a grandson; and two step-grandchildren. His first wife, the former Doris Crook, died in 1977.

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