The British Humanist Association (BHA) learned with great sadness of the death of our President, Linda Smith, who was not only a remarkable comedian and broadcaster, but also a great friend of Humanism. She had been President of the BHA since July 2004.
When she first took on the role, Linda said, “The BHA’s work is more important than ever – with fundamentalism of many kinds on the rise, the rational voice of humanism needs to be heard. I see publicising Humanism in order that other people might identify themselves not just negatively as atheists, but positively as humanists, as a vital part of my role. I’m looking forward to evangelizing – if that’s the right word. The future is bright, the future is human!”
When the British Humanist Association’s trustees were discussing who should be invited to be the BHA’s next President and Linda Smith’s name came up, one of them commented that she would be “a brave choice”! Perhaps he envisaged the Radio 4 Just a Minuteteam attempting to talk about Humanism for one minute without hesitation, repetition or deviation, and it may be true that a comedian was not the most obvious choice, but the trustees were unanimous in approving Linda as the BHA’s President, and delighted when she accepted the role.
Humanists who had heard Linda talk about her beliefs on Devout Sceptics on Radio 4 not so long before shared their enthusiasm.
Hanne Stinson, Executive Director of the BHA said, “Linda Smith was one of the few comedians to make me laugh out loud, but when I met her to talk about the President’s role I was struck by how everything she said about her beliefs was completely in tune with the BHA’s position, and her commitment to supporting the BHA’s work was amazing. Although Linda’s illness towards the end of her life meant that she could not give as much time to her role as she would have liked, Linda did great work for the British Humanist Association and for Humanism in her time as President, particularly in the publicity she obtained for the BHA’s campaign against faith and sectarian schools.”
Sam Rimmer, Chair of the BHA said, ” Humanists celebrate life. It’s very sad for us to have lost the explosion of humour that was Linda, but there is so much in her life to celebrate. Her many friends have described her personal qualities and achievements in obituaries throughout the media, but I want to celebrate Linda’s wonderful contribution to Humanism. When she first became our President, she said she hadn’t realised that she had always been a humanist. When they read or heard Linda’s comments, many other people identified with this and sought out other people just like themselves for support and like-minded company. I wish Linda was still around, but when I think of her it will always be with a warm and happy smile.”
For more about Linda and the BHA, click here to read an article in The Independent , 2 March 2003, and here to read “Linda Smith: God, the biggest joke of all”, an Independent feature by
Cahal Milmo on why the comedian spent her final years promoting a Humanism.
Linda Smith died on 27 February of ovarian cancer. If you would like more information about ovarian cancer, click here.