Earl Edward Tailer Smith
Courtesy Historical Society of
Palm Beach County
Earl Edward Tailer Smith (1903-1991), a mayor of Palm Beach and U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, was born in Newport, Rhode Island, and studied at Yale. He left his studies to marry Consuelo Vanderbilt (1903-2011), with whom he had two daughters. She was the niece of Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan. Smith founded an investment firm in the 1930s and was a member of the New York Stock Exchange for over 60 years. After years of visiting Palm Beach with his family, he built a home in 1935 next to the Kennedy estate.
Four U.S. presidents appointed Smith to positions. Franklin D. Roosevelt selected Smith in 1941 as special assistant in the Office of Production Management, which Smith left to serve in the Army and Air Force during World War II. Dwight D. Eisenhower sent Smith to Havana as Ambassador to Cuba in 1959. John F. Kennedy nominated Smith for Ambassador to Switzerland in 1961, but Smith declined because Switzerland represented the United States in Cuba. Ronald Reagan appointed Smith in 1982 to the new Presidential Commission on Broadcasting to Cuba.
Before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in 1960, Smith described how the United States helped to overthrow Fulgencio Batista’s pro-American dictatorship and allow Fidel Castro’s takeover. Smith published The Fourth Floor (1962), an account of the revolution. “I was called home,” Smith said in a 1987 oral history, “because I could not work with Castro.”
Smith was elected mayor of Palm Beach 1971-77, focusing on the enforcement of building ordinances. He helped found the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach in 1981, which he chaired until his death, and which dedicated Earl E.T. Smith Preservation Park to him in 1987. The Historical Society honored Smith in 1991 with the Judge James R. Knott Award for promoting awareness and preservation of Palm Beach County history.
Smith’s wife, the former Lesly H. Stockard (1939- ), served as mayor of Palm Beach 2000-05 after seven years on the Town Council.