From the sale ring to the kill floor to the court room and congress, Johnny constantly fought corruption and spoke truth to abusive power. Johnny was a man of unusually great courage.
A wealthy person once said to me, “You know, Mike, when you die, whoever has the most money wins.” I responded, “What do you win?” He answered, “You just win!” This was NOT Johnny Smith.
Like this so-called ‘wealthy’ person, there are a few people who have the power and wealth to exploit others and are willing to do so. There are those who are fascinated and attracted to this abusive power and wealth. They want to be close to those who have it. They are a part of the problem. And, there are those who are willing to look the other way and do nothing about it, nor give any assistance to those who are injured. Some are just too afraid to say anything, and then there are the very few, like Johnny Smith, that are willing, at any cost, to confront it and defeat it – always putting others before money and power.
Johnny was good at conversation, skilled at debate, and always willing to step-up and fight when necessary.
Heralding the new South Dakota law, SB95, Johnny Smith of Ft. Pierre Livestock Market emphasized the need to save agriculture, the state’s number one industry. “We have to save the industry! This new law will stop the big meat packers from ‘stealing’ our cattle. The packers are bankrupting good producers with their anti-competitive bidding practices. The price discrimination, captive supplies, secret deals and overall abusive market power has to be stopped. Today we took an important step in fixing a badly broken marketing system.”
Lee Pitts related, “My good friend and Pickett plaintiff, Johnny Smith, always said, ‘We knew we could win if we got the facts before a jury of our peers.” Eight years later the cowboys finally got their chance in front of a jury and just like Johnny Smith prophesied those twelve Alabama jurists proclaimed IBP/Tyson guilty of using captive supplies to manipulate cattle prices.’”
The greatest reward is not for those who accumulate the most money. Johnny knew from his own experience that the greatest reward, besides eternal, is the daily satisfaction in helping others, the many friends you leave behind, and the place you made better for those yet to come.
To many of us cattle producers, some of Johnny’s most important work involved his constant battle for fair markets. Thankfully, he left us with a better cattle market along with a clear example of what it takes to keep it.
I pray that many more of us will aspire to follow the example of Johnny Smith and may he rest well in his much deserved peace.