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Beloved Advocate columnist Smiley Anders dead at age 86

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BATON ROUGE — Smiley Anders, whose daily columns in the local daily newspaper were a must-read for more than four decades, died Friday after a long illness. He was 86.

The Advocate reported Friday afternoon that Anders had died at his home in Spanish Town. It described Anders as the newspaper's "unofficial ombudsman and ambassador" and that he had written more than 12,500 columns, nearly all of them a mix of observations made by him and his thousands of readers.

"Smiley would take questions from the community and then he would answer them," said Ed Pratt, a former Advocate reporter and editor who remains a contributing columnist for the publication. "They would always be answers or questions about people, their background, some crazy thing that happens in the community.

"The answers would be so endearing and interesting that ... everyone wanted to be a part of it. If they got something answered in his column, they would run to tell somebody else, 'Look look look. Smiley answered me. Look at what he said,'" Pratt said in an interview with WBRZ.

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome called Anders "a beloved citizen" of Baton Rouge.

"For decades, Smiley brought joy, wit, and a unique perspective to the pages of our local newspaper, becoming a cherished voice in our community," she said. 

"Smiley's columns were more than just words; they reflected the heart and soul of Baton Rouge. His ability to find humor in everyday life and his genuine connection with our residents made him a trusted friend to many. His contributions to journalism and his dedication to our city will be remembered fondly."

In the newspaper's story on Anders' death, publisher Judi Terzotis said Advocate employees were "deeply saddened by his passing, but his legacy will endure, not only in our hearts, but in the hearts of all our readers."

Anders was born Nov. 20, 1937, in Natchez, Mississippi, and moved to Baton Rouge when he was 8 — though he used to joke in the newsroom that he had lived in Louisiana all of his life except for the time he lived in Shreveport.

He joined The Advocate in 1973 as a business reporter and began writing a column in 1979.

Pratt sat next to him.

"I came to the newsroom in 1976. I was a 21-year-old right out of journalism school and I was sitting right next to Smiley Anders," Pratt said. "He was very interesting guy, the phone calls he got and the way he communicated with people on the phone.

"He had this big ol' laugh. Even if he was covering a news story, people were laughing. He was laughing. I thought it was an odd thing. It was a great thing, too," Pratt said. "He was just so good in the newsroom."

Anders suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, even though he never smoked, the newspaper reported. Survivors include his wife Katherine Scales Anders — known to his readers as "Lady Katherine" — his two children, six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a grandson.

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