Updated: Apr 3, 2020
Stuntman, Rancher & Philanthropist
Born in Breckenridge, Texas, in 1932, Finis Dean Smith was raised by his paternal grandmother and grandfather after his mother died when he was two. Dean grew up watching westerns at the local theaters and dreamed of following in his many western heroes’ footsteps to be a part of Hollywood and make westerns. He was an outstanding athlete in Graham High School making Look Magazine's All American in the 100 yard dash. He went on to have an outstanding career at the University of Texas in track and football. He won eight Southwest Conference titles and won every major relay in the US including the National Championships. He went to the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki Finland and won the gold in the 400 meter relay. He got beat in the 100 meters in the closest finish in Olympic history. He did two years in the Army and played for the LA Rams. His Olympic roommate J.W. Mashburn introduced him to his good friend James Garner. Garner helped Dean get into the business and he made a name doing stunts and doubling many leading men like Dale Robertson and Robert Redford, (so many in fact they are too numerous to count). He made 10 movies with John Wayne. His first "The Alamo" (his favorite) was made in 1959. Dean retired in 1992 and returned to Texas and the land he grew up on. When Dean retired and moved back home to Texas, he was asked by several civic groups and high school classes to give speeches about being an Olympian, athlete and being in show business, to speak about his life and career. He has also since retiring, traveled to many schools and charity events and performed with his Trick Horses Hollywood, Sunday, and Max for the children, to speak to the children about the western way, how to believe in one’s self, to live a clean life, "if you can dream those dreams you can make them come true". To give them a cowboy hero to look up to like his heroes, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Tom Mix, the ones he grew up with when he was a boy. He has two ranches in Stephens County. One with a mile of the Clear Fork of the Brazos, land that has been in his family since the 1800's, one in Ivan, Texas, where he grew up as a boy. He raises longhorn cattle on each place.
For the last twenty five years Dean has attended, participated, and performed with his horses Hollywood and Sunday, in many Celebrity Rodeo's for Charity. The Ben Johnson's for children's charities in Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. The Bobby Norris Roundup for Autism in Dallas, Texas, which he still participates in. Since having lost so many of his friends, fellow athletes, cowboys, actors, and stuntmen to cancer, and seeing first hand, his dear friend John Wayne, stuntman Chuck Roberson, and Carol Johnson (wife of Ben) battle cancer. Dean vowed to help in any way he could. He decided to follow Ben's lead. He put on the 1st Dean Smith Celebrity Rodeo in Graham Texas in November 2002, benefiting the American Cancer Society with a tribute to Ben Johnson. In 2004 he put on the 2nd Dean Smith Celebrity Rodeo in Abilene, Texas benefiting the John Wayne Cancer Institute. Dean and his wife Debby were married in a little church on the Alamo set in Brackettville, Texas. Together they have eight children and step-children, Charles, Christina, Laurie, Deborah, Ash, Mary, Paul and Finis Dean Smith II.
Dean feels he has been so blessed to have so many of his dreams come true. He still has dreams and would like to be a part of producing and making "good" westerns, like the ones he grew up watching as a young boy, and the ones he worked in, during his movie career.
• 1952 - Won gold medal at the 1952 Olympic Games • 1980 - Inducted Stuntman's Hall of Fame • 1980 - Inducted University of Texas Hall of Honor • 1985 - Inducted Texas Sports Hall of Fame • 1993 - Awarded Annual Ben Johnson Award at Tuolumne County Wild West Film Festival in Sonora, California • 1997 - Awarded The All American Cowboy Award at Bandera, Texas • 1998 - Awarded Golden Boot • 2000 - Awarded American Culture Award for Western Movies and Television • 2002 - Awarded Head of the Class Alvin Davis Award • 2002 - Named to named to the Tombstone Walk of Fame for Stuntman • 2006 - Awarded The Special Service Award at the JWCI Auxiliary 21st Annual Odyssey Ball