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Gordon Harold Smith was born on May 25, 1952 in Pendleton, Oregon, moving in 1954 to Washington D.C. when his father accepted a job as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture under Ezra Taft Benson. Gordon served a two year Mormon mission to New Zealand in 1971, graduating from Brigham Young University with degrees in History and English in 1976, and earning a law degree from Southwestern University in 1979. After working as an attorney in private practice, Smith assumed management of his family's frozen vegetable processing company, a position he held until his election to the U.S. Senate. Senator Smith and his wife Sharon have raised three children, Brittany, Garrett, and Morgan. They maintain homes in Pendleton and in Bethesda, Maryland. Smith is a second cousin of current Congressmen Mark Udall and Tom Udall and is the lone Republican.
On September 8, 2003, Smith experienced a personal tragedy when his 21-year-old adopted son, Garrett, a college culinary arts major, committed suicide. In an effort to deal with this tragedy, Smith published a book entitled “Remembering Garrett, One Family’s Battle with a Child’s Depression.” In 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, authorizing $82 million for suicide-prevention and awareness programs at colleges.
Smith's foray into politics began in 1992, when he was elected to the Oregon State Senate. His colleagues recognized his leadership abilities by electing him Minority Leader, and then President of the State Senate during his first term in office.
After being sworn in to the United States Senate on January 7, 1997, Gordon Smith has quickly earned a reputation as a statesman with an independent streak. Senate leaders have recognized Senator Smith's abilities and have continually asked him to serve in key leadership and committee positions. He has also become known for his ability to cross party lines in the interests of his constituents.
Smith serves in these Senate committees: Commerce, Science and Transportation; Energy and Natural Resources; Indian Affairs; Finance; and as Chairman of the Special Committee on Aging. In addition, he is a member of the Senate Western Water and Rural Health Caucuses as well as the Chairman of the High Tech Task Force. Smith is also co-chairman of the Senate Task Force on Medicare and Prescription Drugs and has been selected by leadership three times to be a Deputy Whip.
Smith is a strong supporter of expanding hate crime laws to encompass crimes against homosexuals and successfully passed legislation to this effect. He also supports the Federal Marriage Amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Advice from Senator Smith to those of the Mormon faith who would aspire to public service:
“Live your religion privately with integrity, but wear it lightly publicly. If you want tolerance from others, be tolerant yourself. The American people generally don’t care where you pray, they prefer that you pray. As long as you are not sanctimonious or have a sectarian agenda, they are very openhearted toward mainstream faiths, as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has certainly become.”