A new exhibition at Reynolda in Winston-Salem chronicles the unsolved death of Zachary Smith Reynolds, who was the youngest child of R.J. and Katharine. The exhibit also explores the remarkable life of his wife, Broadway star Libby Holman.
On July 6, 1932, just past midnight, Z. Smith Reynolds — the 20-year-old famed pilot, and heir to some $30 million — was shot at Reynolda House, and died later that morning. The shot was heard by Holman and Smith’s childhood friend Albert “Ab” Walker who were both charged with first-degree murder. The case made national news, but it was suddenly dropped before ever coming to trial leaving the circumstances of Smith’s death — suicide, accident, or murder — shrouded in mystery to this day.
The exhibition is curated by Phil Archer, Reynolda’s deputy director. He says "Smith & Libby" — through archival objects, news articles and more — reveals the complexity of this event that continues to resonate generations later.
"In the last hour of Smith’s life, he was planning his next around-the-world flight while looking at a globe," says Archer. "We found the globe. He then reportedly threw his wallet at his best friend and secretary, Ab Walker, and said, ‘You can have that. I’m going to go out and end it all tonight. Our trip is off around the world.’ We have the wallet and the wallet was still full of the business cards that it contained that night."
"Smith & Libby: Two Rings, Seven Months, One Bullet" opens at Reynolda House on Saturday, September 9, in Winston-Salem.
*Correction: A previously published version of this story incorrectly spelled Katharine Smith Reynolds. The story has been updated to reflect the proper spelling.