Obituary of Eugene Osborne Smith

July 19, 2021

NEW YORK CITY - Eugene Osborne "Oz" Smith of New York City, born Feb. 14, 1927, in Miami, Florida, to Osborne Smith and Olive Clark-Smith, passed away on July 19, 2021.

Osborne lived and worked around the country and the world. He spent a significant portion of his years in Oneonta, where he raised his family and was active in local radio, civic, community, and school programs, and the Oneonta Poetry Workshop. Throughout his life, Oneonta remained his spiritual home.

Oz spent a lifetime communicating as a singer, actor, poet, filmmaker, and composer. As a young artist in Harlem, he was awarded the Paul Robeson Protégé Award, Theodore Roosevelt Citizenship Award, and was named W.C. Handy's Star of Tomorrow.

He served his country with the New York Guard, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserves, and U.S. Marine Corps Reserves in Europe and Japan.

He appeared in the State Department's tour of "Porgy and Bess" in Europe and North America and created the role of Persil Le Noir in David Merrick's "Irma La Douce," appearing in more than 800 performances on Broadway. He recorded the considered classic The Wizardry of Oz Smith, (Capitol Records) and The Eyes of Love (Argo). Oz wrote, produced, directed, and narrated his film "Just Like You" which was awarded the Chris Award for Best Short Film. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Department of Labor went on to use the film for race relations training and motivational purposes. He also composed the music for Ian Hugo's "Ai-Ye," winning Best Musical Score at the Venice and Edinburgh Film Festivals.

Returning to NYC in 1981, he began working in commercials and films, continued to produce his radio program, Plugging into America, and worked across the tri-state area with his group, Good Bread Alley. A posthumous album will be released in late 2022.

Eugene is survived by his wife, Loretta Rotunno; his children, David O. Smith, Dr. Victoria N.O. Niklas, Megan A.J. Smith, and Amanda J. Barnette; their mother, Pamela Lloyd, seven grandchildren; and the many friends and colleagues who loved this incredible man.

Early in his career, he wrote, "Everyone in their life begins to feel that one day they step as children do, they learn to walk as a child does, and they see themselves moving from one place to another place. The first step toward anything is the greatest honor a man can ever have. And the greatest honor a man can ever have is a chance to give." These words define his legacy.

A memorial will take place in New York City this coming Fall.

Share a Memory

The Obituaries are currently being upgraded. Please contact us to report any issues.