Mignon Comer Smith, a steeplechase enthusiast, philanthropist, and retired broadcaster, died Friday, Feb. 10, of a heart attack at her home in the Watergate Apartments in Washington, D.C. She was 81.
An avid horseback rider from her early teens, she was the managing partner of Mede Cahaba Stable, a racing and breeding operation that was the National Steeplechase Association’s fifth-leading owner in 2011.
Born Feb. 7, 1931, in Sylacauga, Alabama, she was the daughter of the Avondale Mills owner and attended the University of Alabama, where she studied political science and journalism. Beginning in the 1970s, she reported on Washington’s activities as a correspondent for the Alabama Radio Network. Her Mignon C. Smith Washington/Alabama Report continued for 30 years. She was a long-time member of the National Press Club.
Although she lived much of her adult life in Washington, she maintained a home in Birmingham and remained active in philanthropic activities in her native state. In 2004, she established a foundation for scholarships with a $10-million gift. The full scholarships were named for her parents, J. Craig and Paige T. Smith, and 55 students now are in the program. The scholarship foundation will receive an additional $20-million bequest from her estate.
She also supported the University of Alabama’s Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility and the J. Craig Smith endowed chair for integrity in business.
Mede Cahaba had enjoyed a successful racing season in 2011 with five wins from 20 starts, including victories by Complete Zen in the $50,000 Georgia Cup at the Atlanta Steeplechase and Radnor Hunt Races’ $50,000 National Hunt Cup, both novice stakes. The stable, trained by Lilith Boucher, had 2011 purse earnings of $125,450.