My original interest in the JBS came from hearing Charlie Smith on a televised "Meet the Press" interview in Orlando, Fl in the early 1970's. --
Jess D. Roques, current John Birch Society Council member
During the early and mid-1970s, Charlie Smith was easily the John Birch Society's most brilliant, popular, and influential speaker. Robert Welch once told the office and field staff of the JBS that Smith was the only individual in the JBS Speakers Bureau who could speak effectively on any subject of importance.
Charlie recently tracked me down and spent several hours telling me about his experiences as a JBS speaker, his recollections of Robert Welch, and describing in detail his opinion of current JBS management (he wasn't exactly rhapsodizing about their character and competence) and the reasons for that opinion.
Although I was aware of Mr. Smith's noteworthy speaking career, I had never had the chance to talk with him at length until yesterday (October 31). He was in the audience during a speech I gave in 1996 (I seem to recall it was in Florida or Georgia, but that may be a mistake on my part), but we only had time to shake hands and exchange perfunctory pleasantries.
Like countless others who have been through the JBS, Charlie Smith remains committed to the freedom struggle and places a very high value on the people he met through the organization -- while having nothing but contempt for many of the personalities who managed to insinuate themselves into management positions within the hierarchy. He makes no secret of the particular (and, my experience would suggest, well-earned) contempt he feels toward John McManus, and he expressed it in terms a bit more pungent than I would have employed.
Our conversation yesterday included some reflections on the way that the JBS tends to extract as much as it can out of its employees before wadding them up, throwing them away, and then running down their reputation after they've departed.
"I don't know how it was that the Society ended up getting rid of you," Charlie told me, "but it means that you must have been doing something right, you must have displayed independence and an ability to think for yourself. They really don't have much use for people of that kind."
Although they're not directly relevant to our conversation, I thought it would be worthwhile to share a few of relatively recent video clips of Charlie offering some informal, extemporaneous commentary regarding current affairs.
Part II, Part III , Part IV