LTTLE ROCK – Steve Smith, former president of the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, died Wednesday. The lifelong outdoorsman helped launch the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame and was inducted in 2003.
Smith was president of the AGFF from 1998 until his retirement in 2015. The foundation is the fundraising auxiliary of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
AGFC Director Jeff Crow said there were no words to adequately describe what Smith meant to the agency. “A kind and gentle soul, his love for the AGFC and its employees was displayed in everything he did on our behalf,” Crow said.
AGFF President Deke Whitbeck said the foundation was shocked and saddened by Smith’s death. “He was the leader of this foundation,” Whitbeck said. “More importantly, he was a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend. He had a true passion for reaching out to young people and introducing them to Arkansas’s great outdoors.”
Fred Brown, AGFC chairman, said Smith was a dedicated outdoorsman. “He did his best to spread the traditions of hunting, angling and outdoor recreation for as long as I knew him,” Brown said. “His friendly smile and calm demeanor always let you know you had a friend willing to work with you to get people outdoors,” he added.
Smith and the foundation played starring roles in the 1996 campaign to pass a conservation sales tax to provide permanent and solid funding for the AGFC, Arkansas State Parks, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission.
Smith guided many foundation projects, such as the purchase of the Robinwood addition to Wattensaw Wildlife Management Area, which used proceeds from several years of Outdoor Hall of Fame banquets. He played a leading part in the acquisition and development of Potlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook’s Lake, and the development of a firing range in Jacksonville. He also was a key link in the purchase of a 421-acre tract for Fred Berry Conservation Education Center on Crooked Creek.
Smith was born in Little Rock and grew up in Stuttgart. He was a graduate of Columbia Military Academy in Tennessee and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas. He worked in commercial real estate before joining the AGFF. He was a Ducks Unlimited national trustee emeritus and a former member of the Arkansas State Police Commission.