Arthur Smith, who wrote “Dueling Banjos,” died on April 3. He grew up in Lancaster County and did a great kindness to the Lancaster High School class of 1955 that affected our lives.
Lancaster had lots of people who were uneducated and poor. Our senior class proposed to raise enough money for all of us to go to Washington; it would be the first trip away from home for many. We sold everything from magazine subscriptions to Christmas trees; the big event was to be a concert by Arthur Smith and the Briarhoppers.
Unhappily, a local evangelist scheduled a revival the same night and called for a boycott of the show.
As a result, we sold too few tickets to pay Mr. Smith’s fee, although we had just enough money from our other projects. When I approached Mr. Smith backstage with what we had, he said: “Son, I know what happened here. You keep the money.”
He made it possible for us to go to Washington, and for many it was the trip of their lives. For all of us, he set an example of generosity and good will that our class remembers to this day.