James Smith

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJames Hopkins•Smith, Jr.
Used nameJames•Smith
Born15 December 1909 in New York, New York (USA)
Died24 November 1982 in La Jolla, California (USA)
Measurements178 cm / 70 kg
AffiliationsSeawanhaka Corinthian YC, Oyster Bay (USA)
NOC United States
Medals OG
Gold 1
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 1


James Smith was from Oyster Bay, New York, and sailed for the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Racing Association. Smith obtained degrees from Harvard and Columbia Law School, although he never practiced law, and then enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1931. He had learned to fly a Curtiss-JN4 in 1927 from Charles Lindbergh, and in 1933 Smith received an aviators’ certificate from the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain. He was a fighter pilot flying off aircraft carriers in the Pacific during World War II, and became a lieutenant-commander before leaving active duty in 1945 to become a vice-president of Pan American Airways.

In 1953 Smith was appointed assistant Secretary of the Navy for air by President Dwight Eisenhower, and in 1957 he became director of the International Cooperation Administration, which was the U.S. foreign aid program. In 1954, Smith publicly admitted that the Navy had wrongly suspended Abraham Chasanow as a security risk in July 1953 and issued Chasanow a public apology. His refusal to bow to pressure from Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist hysteria is considered to be the basis for the film Three Brave Men.

Smith lived in New York much of his life and was later involved with charitable and philanthropic interests. He had leadership posts at the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, Planned Parenthood, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Conservation Foundation, Outward Bound, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1948 Summer Olympics Sailing USA James Smith
6 metres, Open (Olympic) Llanoria 1 Gold