Kate Smith was an American singer referred to as “The First Lady of Radio” due to her several popular radio shows. She is best remembered for her interpretation of “God Bless America” and was appreciated for her contribution to American culture and patriotism. In 1999, Smith was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame for her radio, television, and recording career, which lasted five decades, and reached its height in the 1940s.


Kathryn Elizabeth Smith was born in Greenville, Virginia on May 1, 1907. It was at an early age that she first fell in love with singing and dancing. In 1926, while performing locally in theaters and nightclubs, a New York City show producer discovered her talent. She was first featured on Broadway in the musical comedy, Honeymoon Lane. Four years later, in the year 1930, she appeared in two other musicals, Hit the Deck and Flying High.

In 1930, Kate joined forces with Columbia Records vice president Ted Collins, who subsequently went on to become her partner and manager. It was Mr. Collins who put her on the radio and helped her to become an immediate success. Not long after, Kate broke the record for longevity at the renowned Palace Theater.

In 1932, because of her radio success, Kate was offered a cameo role in Paramount’s musical film, The Big Broadcast. This is where she sang “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain,” which later became her signature piece. In 1933, Kate had the opportunity to play herself in her own movie, Hello Everybody!, with her co-stars being Randolph Scott and Sally Blane. It was then, ten years later, Kate made a guest appearance in the Irving Berlin picture This is the Army, where she sang God Bless America.

Back in 1926, Kate began making records. Some of her biggest hits were: River Stay Way From My Door (1931), The Woodpecker Song (1940), The White Cliffs of Dover (1941), I Don’t Want to Walk Without You (1942), There Goes That Song Again (1944), Seems Like Old Times (1946), Now is the Hour (1947), and How Great Thou Art (1965).

Kate was also very successful with her radio shows. Her radio variety hour, The Kate Smith Hour, was the most popular of its kind and aired weekly from 1937-1945. During that same time, Kate also had the Number 1 daytime radio show called Kate Smith Speaks.

But Kate’s success did not stop there. She was also triumphant when it came to television. From 1950-1954, The Kate Smith Hour aired every Monday-Friday afternoon. NBC then chose to give her a primetime show on Wednesday evenings called The Kate Smith Evening Hour due to her success with her prime-time show. In 1960, Kate had her final TV series. It was a weekly half-hour musical series with CBS called The Kate Smith Show.

Kate’s career came to an end on a high note when she sang her version of “God Bless America” for the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team. This inspired the team to go on to win two successive Stanley Cups (1974 and 1975). Kate was named Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade in 1976. And on July 4th of that same year, Kate sang “God Bless America” one last time. After a long battle with diabetes, she passed away on June 17, 1986 in Raleigh, NC.


  • Kate Smith sold nearly 400,000 pages of sheet music for “God Bless America.” On March 21, 1939, Kate’s song “The Star Spangled Banner” also became an instant hit after she recorded both for RCA Victor.
  • Kate was a Grammy Award Winner in 1966 for Best Gospel Album, How Great Thou Art.
  • Kate was awarded America’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Ronald Reagan on October 26, 1982.
  • In 1985, Kate Smith received the Women’s International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award.
  • In 1999, Kate was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.
  • Kate was awarded two Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One star is for recording and the other for radio.
  • Kate Smith was featured on a U.S. commemorative stamp in 2010. The art on the stamp was based on a photograph of Smith that was taken back in the 1960s.
  • Kate acted for many companies as a commercial spokesperson, such as Studebaker, Pullman, and Jello.
  • She did a command performance for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the White House on June 8, 1939. She was:
    • The only radio artist to be listed among the 10 leading American women by the publication American Women.
    • The only private citizen ever awarded the Legion of Valor medal.
    • The only private citizen privileged to use the President’s entrance to Union Station, Washington.
    • Honorary member of the Red Cross for which she raised more than $4 million.
  • She won at least four Scripps-Howard and Hearst newspaper popularity polls, and has never been lower than second, and was awarded a Patriotic Service Cross by the United Flag Association. Only three other women have ever been so honored. She received a Drake University medallion for “outstanding contributions to radio and the people.”
  • Smith was inducted posthumously into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1999. She was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
  • In 2010, a U.S. commemorative stamp was issued featuring stamp art duplicating artwork created for the cover of a CD titled Kate Smith: The Songbird of the South. The artwork was based on a photograph of Smith taken in the 1960s.
  • On July 21, 2011, Smith’s version of “God Bless America” was played as NASA’s final wake-up call for the space shuttle Atlantis, ending the 30-year shuttle program.
  • She did a command performance for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the White House on June 8, 1939.


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