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Hit-Run Kills 'Our Gang' Child Actor

Accident: Darwood Smith, 72, who played Waldo, left acting for preaching as a teenager.

May 18, 2002|SANDRA MURILLO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Darwood Kenneth Smith, who played Waldo in the "Our Gang" series, was killed by a hit-and-run driver Wednesday morning as he was taking a stroll through his Riverside neighborhood, authorities said.

Smith, 72, a part-time pastor at La Sierra University Seventh-day Adventist Church, was walking along Arlington Avenue when a small, tan truck drove onto the sidewalk and hit him. Smith was taken to Riverside Community Hospital, where he died of head injuries, said Riverside County coroner's officials. No arrests have been made.

As a child actor, Smith was known as Darwood Kaye. He appeared in 21 of the "Our Gang" comedies from the age of 7 to 11. Fans of the series will remember Waldo as the skinny boy with glasses who rivaled Alfalfa for Darla's affections.

"'Priggish' is a good adjective to describe Waldo," said film critic and historian Leonard Maltin, co-author of "The Little Rascals: The Life and Times of Our Gang." "He was very good at that part because you believed him."

Smith was not a member of the original 1922 cast, but the shorts he appeared in have become classics, Maltin said.

The series is a "genuine phenomenon in both show-biz history and I think pop culture in our country," Maltin said. "There aren't many films of the 1930s that still capture children of the 21st century."

While some of the "Our Gang" cast members grew up to have troubled adulthoods--most recently Robert Blake--Smith found great success and accomplishment after he left the series, Maltin said.

Smith quit acting in his teens, converted to the Seventh-day Adventist faith and began a long career in the ministry. He and his family spent 17 years as missionaries in Thailand.

After he returned to the United States, he was a pastor at churches throughout California. He retired in 1995 but worked part-time at La Sierra University Seventh-day Adventist Church alongside his son, senior pastor Dan Smith, 49. Smith's four sons are pastors.

"We're obviously people of faith and we're thankful for ... the years that we had him," Smith said. "It's really hard to imagine not working side by side with him anymore. It's not much fun this way, but we'll see him again."

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