One of my earliest recollections is the sound of Kate Smith's voice.
Her late afternoon TV program, The Kate Smith Hour, was a daily ritual in our house while dinner was being prepared.
My father adored Kate Smith, as did the entire country. She was an entertainer who was literally and figuratively bigger than life. In fact, she described herself best when she said: "I’m big, and I sing, and boy, when I sing, I sing all over!”
But Smith was more than a singer. In post World War II America, she was a national hero.
Her fame and her fortitude began early. As a child she had not only entertained troops who fought in World War I but later, her songs of hope and inspiration captured America's heart and helped us get through the Great Depression. Then, during World War II, she traveled nearly 520,000 miles to entertain troops and sold a record $600 million in war bonds in a series of round-the-clock radio appeals. One of these, a 24-hour marathon on Feb. 1, 1944, raised a record $110 million in pledges.
Is there anything in Kate Smiths's background to indicate that she was a racist? Absolutely not!
To the contrary, her niece (her closest living relative, who cared for her in her final years) says her "aunt Katherine saw people's character, not their color." And there is ample evidence of this as Kate Smith showed a real spirit of compassion and inclusion in her professional life.
For example, on April 15, 1945 Kate Smith hosted a special prime-time nationwide memorial radio program where she joined with Philadelphia's own Marion Anderson to "bring the nation together" following the death of President Roosevelt. Kate Smith and a great African-American heroine. Is THIS the Kate Smith that the Flyers are accusing of racism. Is it?
She was all about so much more than a puck or a bat and a ball.
She was way bigger than all that.
She was a genuine Soldier of Freedom. She was a certified trailblazer. She was the Real Deal.