No Introductions Necessary When This Bunch Meets
Jul. 13, 1989
WASHINGTON (AP) _ If you call the Hyatt Regency in suburban Bethesda, Md., this weekend and ask for Jim Smith, expect exasperation.
There will be about 50 Jim Smiths registered.
They're members of the Jim Smith Society. They'll be attending its annual summer get-together, reveling in what they have in common - a name.
They're only a fraction of the Jim Smiths who belong to the society. Its membership numbers 1,502, from virtually every state and many other countries.
And the 1,502 are just the tip of the Jim Smith iceberg. No one knows how many Jim Smiths there are - the Census Bureau keeps this sort of information confidential - but the Department of Veterans Affairs counts more than 16,000 on its roles.
The Jim Smith Society is the brainchild of - this will come as no surprise - a gent named Jim Smith.
A good-natured James H. Smith Jr., 68, of Camp Hill, Pa., retired public relations man, he is the self-described ''founder-president-newsletter editor- chief bankroller.''
He established it 20 years ago.
No goals for this society, no high purpose, except to exist and count noses.
''My membership application includes a line in which I ask applicants to list their most significant achievement,'' founder Smith recalls. ''One Jim responded by writing: 'Living up to the name by being completely undistinguished.'''
No Jim Smith has ever occupied the White House, Smith concedes. There once was a U.S. Sen. Jim Smith from New Jersey. A handful of congressmen, a couple of governors went by that name, history shows.
But ask him to come up with really famous Jim Smiths and he won't bowl you over.
Currently, he'll list the secretary of state of Florida, a Republican who used to be a Democrat; a state senator in Alabama, and the commissioner of the California highway patrol. That's about it for the Jim Smith Hall of Fame.
But the Jim Smiths have fun when they get together.
Everybody enjoys the annual softball game - except maybe the scorekeeper.
Most valuable player: Jim Smith. Winning pitcher: Jim Smith. Losing pitcher: Jim Smith. In the bullpen: Jim Smith.
''We've had instances when someone inadvertently calls out, 'Hey, Jim 3/8''' recalls Camp Hill's Jim, ''and 50 heads turn.''
Somewhere in the club's past, it lost its purity. It began admitting people like F. Jim Smith and R. Jim Smith.
It started with Timmy James Smith, son of member in good standing James Smith from somewhere in Michigan, founder Smith recalls.
Timmy used to love coming with his dad to the summer festivals but hated it when he had to stand by the sidelines while they took the class picture.
So founder Smith bent the rules; Timmy could come in if he would go by T. Jim.
Another Jim Smith, this one a former Army colonel from Columbus, Ohio, designed the society T-shirt. It proclaims ''Jim Smith power.''
On their T-shirts, Jim Smith says, the members will tell each other apart by wearing nametags. He says it with a straight face.