The Smiths were with another couple, good friends Lee and Tammi Ramage, who were unhurt in the tragic accident.
Smith was remembered fondly by fellow PLHS alumnus Jim Harvey. “My memories of Marty are 50 years old,” noted Harvey recalling, “I was 14 and Marty was 13 when we played Pony League on different teams. He was a very gifted athlete, super fast and coordinated. He was a local legend on his motorcycle before he went pro.”
Smith went pro during his senior year in high school.
Clyde Williams, a Point Loman who met Marty “Smitty” Smith at PLHS, could see his friend’s racing potential early-on, having trail biked with Smith in Point Loma and Miramar in the early ‘70s.
“Marty was clearly the ‘fast’ one out of our rag-tag bunch of motocross guys here that grew up with him, while he was living with his parents on Temecula Street in Point Loma,” said Williams adding, “After High School, Marty’s national professional MX trade soared to stardom.”
Williams recalls Smith always being positive. “He was always an upbeat type of guy,” he said.
Williams shared some memorabilia of Smith with The Beacon which included: a magazine with Marty on the cover (featuring him during his high school motocross championship); a magazine poster when Smith was recognized with other motorcycle champions in 1976; and a photo took in 2012 when Marty received an award at Glen Helen Raceway honoring Marty’s motocross career.
“Marty received a crystal trophy and a granite paver with his name on it for Glen Helen’s ‘Walk of Fame,’ said Williams.
Smith is considered to be one of America’s first motocross legends, having helped put Honda on the motocross racing map.
Smith started racing young at age 14 at SoCal’s Carlsbad Raceway, on his way to becoming a factory rider for Honda in 1974. Smith continued his winning ways with Honda throughout the mid-’70s, earning national victories in all three AMA Motocross classes (125, 250, and 500cc), and demonstrating how versatile he was with wins in the 250cc Supercross, Trans AMA, and FIM Motocross World Championship series. In 1977, Smith won the AMA 500cc National Championship.
A bad injury knocked Smith out of the 1978 season and additional injuries ushered in a forced retirement several years later in 1981 at age 24.
After leaving competitive racing, Smith spent much of his time teaching students through his Marty Smith Motocross Clinic. He was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 2000.
Survivors include siblings Todd and Jeanette; three children, Tyler, Jillyin, and Brooke; and seven grandchildren.
The Smiths had resided in rural Alpine in East County in recent years.