Lee Marshall Smith

(b. 1944–)
Buchanan County

Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains of southwestern Virginia, Lee Smith loved to write stories and at age nine she was selling them for a nickel. She studied creative writing while attending Hollins College (later Hollins University) in Roanoke, where she wrote the initial version of her first novel, The Last Day the Dogbushes Bloomed (1968). Smith has published a dozen novels and four short story collections, and has received numerous awards for her work. In her memoir Dimestore: A Writer’s Life (2016), Smith describes growing up in her father's dime store in Grundy and its influence on her writing.

Smith moved to North Carolina, where she taught in the English department at North Carolina State University for almost twenty years. Drawing on the Appalachian legends and songs of her youth, Smith's fifth novel, Oral History (1983), exposed her to a national audience as a Book-of-the-Month Club featured selection. She paid tribute to the strong women of the Appalachians in her epistolary novel, Fair and Tender Ladies (1988). A rafting trip that she and other Hollins students made down the Mississippi River in homage to Mark Twain inspired her bestseller, The Last Girls (2002). A sense of place is a vital component of Smith's work, which often revolves around themes of family and community. When her hometown's business district was razed and relocated to save it from repeated flooding, Smith spearheaded an oral history project by high school students to preserve the collective memory of Grundy.

Among Smith's many honors is the Library of Virginia's 2010 Literary Lifetime Achievement Award.