NMMA Hall of Fame Award
2002: Eddie Smith, Grady-White
Eddie Smith’s name and deeds are synonymous with quality and innovation in the recreational marine industry. In 1968 he purchased a nearly bankrupt boat company from Glenn Grady and Don White. Since then, together with the talented and dedicated associates he gathered at Grady-White Boats in Greenville, North Carolina, Eddie Smith has changed the way people around the world enjoy saltwater fishing.
Prior to Eddie Smith’s tenure at Grady-White, sportfishing in small boats on big water was rare. Grady-White helped create what North Carolina charter captains called the “mosquito fleet” of small sportfishing boats. Led by Eddie, Grady-White pioneered the walkaround cabin boat and popularized center console sportfishing boats: small but safe and secure designs built to go wherever the fish are. In the early 1990s, the company introduced a continuously variable vee hull created with C. Raymond Hunt and Associates, providing a sea-kindly ride underway plus stability at rest or slower speed. Today, the safety, comfort and confidence Grady customers enjoy, even amid growing seas and gathering weather, is in large measure a product of Eddie Smith’s unyielding dedication to safety, quality and customers.
Along with building a very successful business, Eddie Smith has provided immeasurable good for the entire recreational marine industry. He was instrumental in the merger of the Boating Industry Association and the National Association of Engine and Boat Manufacturers into the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) back in 1978–79. He served as NMMA’s second chairman, and also served as chair of the Selection Committee that chose NMMA’s first president. Washington industry advocates know Eddie Smith as one of the most influential and enthusiastic supporters of the industry.
As a sportsman, he recognizes the close association of boating and fishing and also the importance of being good stewards of the environment. He was one of the first members of the Sportfishing Boating Partnership Council of the Department of Interior, and he is a member of the Congressional Sportsman Caucus and the Recreation Roundtable. He is the first recipient of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) Lifetime Achievement award for his continuing involvement in environmental protection. Eddie Smith serves as trustee for and is on the board of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), which recognized him with its most prestigious conservation award for his leadership and personal commitment to marine fisheries. He is active in the Billfish Foundation, the Coastal Conservation Association, and other organizations which educate future generations including his alma mater, the University of North Carolina, and the North Carolina Aquariums.
Eddie Smith’s stewardship goes beyond membership in various organizations. He leads by example. He was one of the first to actively help with the successful Tag-A-Giant program of archival tagging of giant bluefin tuna. He began a program of family oriented fun fishing tournaments, spreading respect for big water fishing to thousands of families and kids over the years. Even design details on Grady-White boats have been guided by his sense of conservancy. Grady-White has engineered new, cleaner oil and gas fills, and has worked with Yamaha in developing and testing the new and much cleaner high horsepower four-stroke engine. Eddie Smith understands that the protection of our aquatic resources is not only the right thing to do, it’s good business.
Eddie’s hometown, the central North Carolina town of Lexington, is known for textiles, furniture and its namesake pork barbecue, but it is by no means a center of boating or water recreation. Yet Lexington produced Eddie Smith, who through sheer determination, incredibly hard work, and the support and understanding of his wife, Jo, has parlayed his outdoor background as a hunter and sportsman to lead Grady-White to the very top niche in coastal fishing boats. As chairman and CEO of Grady-White, and as an ambassador for sportfishing worldwide, Eddie Smith is the embodiment of his company’s creed: together, delivering the ultimate boating experience.