Smyser died of congestive heart failure at Methodist Medical Center, according to the newspaper he led for 45 years.
He was hired as managing editor before The Oak Ridger printed its first edition on Jan. 20, 1949. It was the first newspaper for the "secret city" the federal government created as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb used at Hiroshima.
In addition, Smyser was president of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association in 1973-74 and president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1984-85.
During Smyser's tenure at The Oak Ridger, he chronicled the change from a government-owned community to a self-governing city of about 30,000. The coverage helped the newspaper win 13 first-place Tennessee Press Association public service awards.
Smyser, a 1944 graduate of Penn State, retired from the newspaper in 1983.
At the two professional organizations, he helped boost the number of minority journalists and news relevant to minority communities. He also was a member of ASNE's first delegation of journalists to visit China after the communist takeover and led the organization's exchange of U.S. and Soviet journalists in 1984.
Smyser was a Pulitzer Prize juror for four years and judge of the APME Public Service Awards for four years.
Survivors include his sister, two daughters and seven grandchildren.
By: (AP) Dick Smyser, the founding editor of The Oak Ridger who served as president of two national editors' associations, died Monday. He was 81.