Ray Smith: Press Association chief news editor

Ray Smith, a former chief news editor of the Press Association, died suddenly at his home in Welling, Kent, earlier this month. He was 64.

He was the first Fleet Street journalist to have undergone a heart transplant at a time when such operations were virtually in their infancy.

The operation was carried out on 28 August, 1983, at Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire.

He was the 54th heart transplant patient at that hospital.

Afterwards Smith, who was 44 at the time, said: “As far as I am concerned my life began at 10.40 that night when I left the operating theatre with a good, strong heart and feeling really well for the first time in years.”

Smith joined the Press Association as a reporter in 1966 after six years with The News, Portsmouth, two of them in charge of the Newport, Isle of Wight, office.

At the age of 35 he was appointed PA’s deputy news editor and six years later he became chief news editor.

He left PA after 10 years in that job and 25 years altogether on the agency.

Smith was immensely popular with reporters and maintained a cool and measured demeanour when surrounded by tumult whenever a big story broke. He was probably the most untypical news editor in Fleet Street. He masterminded every story that came his way with complete cool – and a brevity of words. Any fears that he might not be able to cope with such a stressful job after his operation were quickly dispelled. He was soon back in the fray of a Fleet Street newsroom as though nothing had happened.

He was also a key figure in the training of many young journalists who went on to become big names in Fleet Street.

Smith is survived by a widow and two sons.

By Chris Moncrieff, PA News

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