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  • Death of Z. Smith Reynolds

    Death of Z. Smith Reynolds

    In 1932, the adjoining sleeping porch was the site of a shooting. In the early morning hours of July 6, a gunshot rang out from the porch, and the Reynoldses’ younger son, Z. Smith Reynolds, was found with a single bullet wound to the head. Smith was only twenty years old and newly married to Broadway star Libby Holman. The couple had moved into Reynolda a few weeks earlier, hosting parties at which Smith's Winston-Salem friends mingled with stars of the New York stage. On this occasion, a raucous party had been held at Reynolda's Lake Katharine, and the guests had already departed or retired for the night.

    The wounded Smith Reynolds was carried from the porch and driven to the city hospital, where he died later that morning. The death sparked several investigations and extensive national media coverage, in which Smith’s story was presented as a cautionary tale of excess and reckless extravagance during the Great Depression. The sensational nature of the coverage ultimately led Smith’s uncle Will to request that the district attorney drop charges against Libby Holman and Smith’s friend and employee Albert “Ab” Walker, each of whom had been indicted by a grand jury for first-degree murder. The case, whether murder, suicide, or accidental death, remains unsolved.