Dean Smith, Olympic Athlete and Western Stuntman, Dies at 91

Finis Dean Smith, a stuntman regular in John Wayne Westerns who turned to Hollywood after becoming an Olympic gold medalist, died Saturday. He was 91. 

Smith was born in Breckenridge, Texas and began his athletic career competing in track and field competitions, earning All-American status in the 100-meter dash in 1952.

He went on to win varying athletic championships, culminating in his inclusion on Team U.S.A. as a member of the 4×100-meter relay team at the Helsinki Olympics, where he would win the gold medal. Following his graduation from University of Texas at Austin, Smith would play for the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers for a few years ahead of his career in the entertainment industry. 

Working as a stuntman, Smith was a part of several Oscar-winning Western films, including “True Grit” and “How the West Was Won,” in addition to “The Quick and the Dead,” “El Dorado” and “Rio Lobo.” He would serve as a stuntman in several television series including “Tales of Wells Fargo,” “Maverick,” “Gunsmoke,” “Law Man, “Have Gun Will Travel,” “Walker, Texas Ranger” and ”The Outer Limits.”

Some of his most impressive stunts include falling out of the two-story building into a hay wagon for Maureen O’Hara in “McLintock!” Smith was noticed by John Ford when working on the Rosalind Russell film “Auntie Mame,” and went on to be featured in many of Ford’s films.  

Smith also worked as a professional rodeo cowboy and he would go on to join the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He was inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2006, the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum and Hall of Fame in 2009 and later the Hollywood Stuntman’s Hall of Fame. 

He was honored with the “All American Cowboy” award in 1997, the Golden Boot Award in 1998 and the Silver Spur award in 2007. 

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