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Longtime W.Va. legislative official Oce Smith dies

Times West Virginian file photo Oce Smith sits at his desk at the state Capitol. Serving as sergeant-at-arms for the West Virginia House of Delegates for 45 years, he was honored in 2012 on the House floor with the title of Sergeant-at-Arms Emeritus.
Times West Virginian file photo
Oce Smith sits at his desk at the state Capitol. Serving as sergeant-at-arms for the West Virginia House of Delegates for 45 years, he was honored in 2012 on the House floor with the title of Sergeant-at-Arms Emeritus.

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Oce Smith, the colorful political columnist for the Times West Virginian and former House of Delegates Sergeant-at-Arms, died Tuesday morning at a Fairmont nursing home. He was 76.

Anyone involved in the political scene of West Virginia, who read the local newspaper or was from Marion County, and especially Barrackville, knew Smith. He worked for more than 50 years in politics, though he never held an elected position. He wrote for the Fairmont Times and later the Times West Virginian for as many years, but never held a full-time job here.

He was a storyteller, whether he was “holding court” in his office at the Capitol, long drives to and from Charleston, or late nights in the newsroom. With nearly 60 years in Charleston as a page, a clerk, a liaison, working for senators M.M. Neeley and Jennings Randolph, and then finally as sergeant-at-arms, Smith had more than one story to tell.

His brain was a virtual encyclopedia, chronicling names and dates and interpersonal connections with precise accuracy. And though a story or two from the catalog may have been embellished, it was done so with great humor and to usually accentuate the personalities of West Virginia political powerhouses from the second half of the 20th century.

Because he knew them all — congressmen, senators, 10 governors, 13 speakers of the House, nine Senate presidents, hundreds and hundreds of delegates…

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