Breckenridge Texan

Legendary cowboy stuntman Dean Smith dies at age 91

Legendary cowboy stuntman Dean Smith dies at age 91
June 25
17:02 2023

By Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Dean Smith — Olympic Gold Medalist, stuntman/actor, U.S. Army veteran and Stephens County rancher — died Saturday, June 24, at the age of 91.

Born in Breckenridge in 1932, Smith grew up at Ivan, between Breckenridge and Graham, attending Graham High School and the University of Texas, where he played football and ran track. In 1952, he participated in the Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. He came in fourth place in the 100-meter dash and won a Gold Medal as part of the 4×100-meter relay team. According to a 1952 article in the Graham Leader, the 100-meter dash finish was so close that officials had to wait for a photograph to be printed and then examine it to determine the winner. Smith was awarded fourth place in what has been called the closest race in Olympic history.

Back at UT, Smith was on the Longhorns football team that beat the University of Tennessee 16-0 in the 1953 Cotton Bowl Classic, the first Cotton Bowl to be broadcast on television. During his college years, Smith was also a seven-time SWC individual track event and relay champion, and a member of UT’s world record-setting 440-yard relay team in 1955.

In 1956, Smith joined the U.S. Army. After the Army, he joined the Los Angeles Rams professional football team, playing in some scrimmages and exhibition games. When the Rams wanted to trade Smith to the Pittsburgh Steelers before the final preseason game in 1957, he decided to pursue his dream of acting, Smith explained in his autobiography “Cowboy Stuntman.”

He appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows as a stuntman and actor from 1957 through the 1990s. He was one of 31 stuntmen in the 1960 movie “The Alamo” starring John Wayne. He was the stunt-double for Robert Redford in “The Sting,” as well as for Claude Akins, Robert Duvall, James Garner, Bruce Dern, Roy Rogers and others in a variety of movies and shows. He even was the stunt-double for Maureen O’Hara in the movie “McLintock,” wearing a dress, padded coreset, bloomers and pink tennis shoes. “I took plenty of kidding, but when I had that costume on, I looked voluptuous — although I sure made an ugly woman,” Smith wrote in “Cowboy Stuntman.”

In 1992, Smith decided to move back to Texas, to the ranch where he’d grown up, northeast of Breckenridge, where he’s raised longhorn cattle for many years.

Among his many honors, Smith was inducted into the Stuntman’s Hall of Fame, the University of Texas Hall of Fame, Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame, Texas Sports Hall of Fame, Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and others. He received the All-American Cowboy Award, the Golden Boot Award, American Culture Award for Western Movies and Television, the Duke Award at the John Wayne Cancer Institute’s Odyssey Ball, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and more.


Cutline, top photo: Dean Smith, pictured here in 2019 with his wife, Debby, and youngest son, Finis, died June 24 at the age of 91. Among the many achievements in his lifetime, Smith won an Olympic Gold Medal, briefly played professional football, had an extensive career as a stuntman and actor, and retired to the land he grew up on near Ivan. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)



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