December 31, 2009
Courtesy Robert H. Smith and Family

Courtesy Robert H. Smith and Family

Remembering Robert H. Smith

Robert H. Smith — philanthropist, historian, visionary real estate developer and a founding partner of the Newseum — died Dec. 29, 2009. He was 81.

Smith was chairman of Charles E. Smith Commercial Realty, a division of Vornado Realty Trust, and chairman of Charles E. Smith Residential, a division of Archstone-Smith.

"Bob had a great vision both as a builder in the real estate world and as an appreciator of great art," said Shelby Coffey, a Newseum trustee and Freedom Forum senior fellow. "He loved the Founding Fathers and had a vision for history and the future, which he supported through his philanthropy."

Smith took over his father’s successful business in 1967 and turned it into one of the largest real estate empires in the Washington, D.C., area. The family company is best known for developing and building Crystal City, a complex of more than 40 office and apartment buildings located in Northern Virginia.

Smith, along with his wife, Clarice, a Virginia artist, was a major supporter of public education and the arts. He donated millions of dollars to the University of Maryland, his alma mater, and promised his extensive art collection to the National Gallery of Art.

In 2007, Robert and Clarice donated $5 million to the Newseum, which named its 120-seat theater with a 100-foot-long video wall the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Big Screen Theater.

"The Newseum epitomizes the values of our Constitution and encourages us to dream," Smith said. 

Smith is survived by his wife of 57 years, two children and four grandchildren.

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