John Walter Smith (February 5, 1845 April 19, 1925), a member of the United States Democratic Party, served the State of Maryland in the United States in several different positions. From 1899-1900, he was a Congressman representing the 1st district of Maryland; from 1900-1904, he was the 44th Governor of Maryland; and from 1907-1919, he was the junior United States Senator of Maryland.
Smith was born at Snow Hill, Maryland, and attended private schools and Union Academy. His mother died during childbirth, and his father died when he was five. Ephraim King Wilson assumed guardianship of Smith, and raised him. He engaged in the lumber business in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina before becoming president of the First National Bank of Snow Hill and director in many business and financial institutions.
Beginning his political career, Smith was elected to the Maryland State Senate in 1889, 1893, and 1897, and served as president of the Senate in 1894. Following the death of U.S. Senator to Maryland Ephraim K. Wilson in 1891, Smith sought to be elected to replace him, but lost nomination to fellow Democrat Charles H. Gibson. He was elected to the 56th Congress in 1898 from the 1st Congressional district of Maryland, but served for less than a year before being unexpectedly nominated for Governor of Maryland by the Democratic State Convention in 1899. Smith was victorious against incumbent governor Lloyd Lowndes, Jr.
As Governor, Smith promoted education, labor, and healthcare reform. In education, Smith reorganized the public school system, guaranteed free textbooks for all students, appointed a school superintendent, and removed the Agricultural College of Maryland (now known as the University of Maryland, College Park) from private control and placed it under the guidance of the State. He also improved the State's workman compensation program, encouraged a merit system for promotions, reorganized health laws and constructed a State psychiatric hospital. Smith also freed the State from much of its debt by the time he departed from the position in 1904.
After another unsuccessful attempt at a Senate election in 1904, Smith was chosen to fill the vacancy resulting from the death of Senator William Pinkney Whyte in 1908. He was successfully re-elected in 1909 and 1914 and served from March 25, 1908, to March 3, 1921. He lost election in 1920 for a third term as Senator to Ovington E. Weller.
As senator, Smith was chairman of the Committee to Investigate Trespassers Upon Land (62nd Congress), the Committee on the District of Columbia (63rd through 65th Congresses), and the Committee to Examine Branches of the Civil Service (66th Congress).
Smith retired to private life and died in Baltimore, Maryland. He is buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Snow Hill.