David Smith and the Road Home

1965 February, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the National Council on the Arts. May 23, injured in an automobile crash near Bennington, Vermont. He dies that night. [This is from the chronology on the Estate of David Smith website.]

In the 1970s when I attended Bennington College, I remember hearing stories about the death of David Smith. As I heard it, he left a party at Ken Noland’s. After stopping suddenly, some metal from his sculpture that was in the back of his truck slid forward and hit him in the head. I don’t know if this story is accurate. But tonight I was wondering, what sculpture killed David Smith? But, perhaps a better question would be, did sculpture kill David Smith?

I asked a friend, who was around at the time, what he remembered of the incident, and this is what he told me:


He was going from Noland’s to the college & it was said at the time that a piece of angle iron hit him in the back of the head but more recently some researchers have said the hospital reports disputed this. The impact alone may have done it–no seatbelt of course. I never heard that it might have been a sculpture.