Advocate for Fairness and Justice
Smith Bagley was a Trustee of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation for 50 years - longer than anyone in its history - and was instrumental in developing the Foundation’s interest in social justice, strengthening democracy, and environmental advocacy. He helped create the Nancy Susan Reynolds Awards as a memorial to his mother, one of the founders of the Foundation and perhaps the most remarkable woman of 20th century American philanthropy. Smith died January 2, 2010.
He twice served as President of the Foundation, from 1971 to 1975 and from 1983 to 1987 He championed its work, most notably in the area of campaign finance reform, and challenged his fellow Trustees and staff to look for new ways to improve the lives of North Carolinians who were marginalized and underserved.
Smith was particularly interested in the Nancy Susan Reynolds Awards, named for his mother, who died in 1985. In announcing the creation of the awards in 1986 - the 50th anniversary of the Foundation - he noted that there were countless awards programs for recognized leaders but few if any for people working at the grassroots level who faced adversity and challenges in their daily lives. He thought big. He wanted the Nancy Susan Reynolds Awards to lift up the lives of North Carolina’s Mother Teresas and Bishop Tutus. Year after year, Smith Bagley beamed as he watched three remarkable but unassuming North Carolinians tell their stories and receive standing ovations for doing the kind of work he thought was most important to this state.
Smith was also one of the nation's leading philanthropists and political activists, beginning in the 1960s. He was proudly progressive and was a stalwart of the Democratic Party regardless of the political season, sharing his ideas and financial resources with causes and candidates from Presidents to city councilmembers.
Smith remained interested in and committed to the work of the Foundation until his death. The Foundation is indebted to him for his vision and leadership and unflagging commitment to use its resources to advance justice and fairness and improve the lives of men, women, and children across North Carolina.