January 8, 2014

Newly Published “Local Legends” Takes On an “Impossible Task”

bookslocalsRichard D. Smith’s Legendary Locals of Princeton (LL/Arcadia $21.99), which goes on sale this week, contains pictures and stories of unique individuals and groups, past and present, who have had a lasting impact on the Princeton community throughout its history. 

Mr. Smith acknowledges the impossible task of including everyone worthy of admission in the book. ”Like a coach with a deep bench, the problem was not finding players, but deciding who to put on the field,” he said. Among the more illustrious omissions are diplomat, historian and longtime resident George F. Kennan and novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The book’s range covers celebrities like Christopher Reeve, Peter Benchley, and George Gallup Sr., as well as lesser known individuals such as country store owner Mary Watts and Mayor Barbara Boggs Sigmund. Shown on the cover along with Sigmund, Reeve, Benchley, and Gallup are Albert Einstein, George Washington, Paul Robeson, aviation pioneer Francis Callery, and students at Evelyn College.

Asked in an interview which of the legends he most enjoyed researching, Mr. Smith mentioned Einstein and Robeson, “giants respectively in science and the arts, who actually knew each other, were good friends, and worked together on a civil rights initiative. In fact, the very first photo in my book is a rare image of Einstein and Robeson. Where else but in Princeton could such a marvelous image have been made?”

Mr. Smith also mentioned the book’s account of the last time Paul Robeson sang in Princeton, “a true story that illustrates the great actor/vocalist’s abiding love for the community in which he had been born.”

An active member of the Historical Society of Princeton, Richard D. Smith, is a past contributor to New Jersey Network News, Princeton Packet, US 1, and The New York Times.

Since he grew up in neighboring Montgomery Township in the 1950s, going into Princeton was always “going into town.” He has chronicled the town in the previous Arcadia Publishing books, Images of America: Princeton, Princeton University, and Princeton Then & Now. He graduated from the Hun School of Princeton, and then attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., and the New School for Social Research in New York City before graduating from Emerson College in Boston with a BA in Mass Communications in 1975. He became actively involved in bluegrass music during the folk revival of the 1960s and is today a featured staff writer and reviewer for Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. His award-winning book Can’t You Hear Me Callin’: The Life of Bill Monroe Father of Bluegrass is currently in development as a major motion picture, with the working title Blue Moon of Kentucky.

The book will be available at area bookstores, independent retailers, online retailer, and through the publisher at www.legendarylocals.com or (888) 313-2665.