Marcy Carsey, Television Producer and Co-Founder of Carsey-Werner Television, to deliver Peabody-Smithgall Lecture

Peabody Awards will present its Peabody-Smithgall Lecture on Wednesday, March 29 at 4pm at the Chapel on North Campus at the University of Georgia. “A Conversation with Marcy Carsey” will feature Marcy Carsey, television producer of such iconic hits as The Cosby Show, A Different World, Roseanne, Grace Under Fire, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and That ’70s Show, interviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Jones, executive director of the Peabody Awards and Lambdin Kay Chair of the Peabodys in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies.  Peabody is based out of UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The Peabody-Smithgall lecture is part of the university’s Signature Lecture Series, which features speakers noted for their broad, multidisciplinary appeal and compelling bodies of work. The event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Women’s Studies and the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, and is free and open to the general public. UGA students, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend.

“Marcy is an icon of the television industry, producing some of our most beloved programs, especially those focused on the family. We’ve been fortunate to have her serve as a juror for the Peabody Awards, bringing her experience and insight into the process of selecting the best stories of the year,” said Jones. “We’re delighted to have her share her numerous experiences with the UGA community.”

Marcy Carsey teamed with Tom Werner to form The Carsey-Werner Company, the television production company responsible for The Cosby Show, Roseanne, 3rd Rock from the Sun, That ’70s Show, and A Different World. Carsey graduated from the University of New Hampshire and began her show business career as an NBC tour guide. After years of story editing and advertising work, she rose through the ranks at the ABC network to become senior VP of Prime-Time Series. She left ABC in 1980 and formed her own production company, which became the Carsey-Werner Company. Most recently, she co-produced That ’90s Show, which premiered on Netflix in January 2023.

In addition to being inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Broadcasting and Cable Magazine’s Hall of Fame, the Carsey-Werner producing team has received numerous awards, including a Peabody Award, an Emmy, the Humanitas Prize, the People’s Choice Award, a Golden Globe, and an NAACP Image Award. Carsey also received the Lucy Award from Women in Film.

The Peabody-Smithgall Lecture is named in honor of Lessie Bailey Smithgall (ABJ ’33) and her late husband, Charles Smithgall. In the late 1930s, Mrs. Smithgall introduced Lambdin Kay, general manager of Atlanta’s WSB Radio, to John Drewry, dean of the University of Georgia’s School of Journalism. Together, their efforts led to the establishment of the George Foster Peabody Awards in 1940. In 2003, the Smithgalls endowed the Lambdin Kay Chair, now held by Peabody’s Executive Director. The Peabody-Smithgall Lecture is supported with funds from the Lambdin Kay Chair.

Doing ‘a little good along the way’: Lessie Smithgall’s impact on Grady College and Peabody

It is with sadness that we announce the death of Celestia “Lessie” Bailey Smithgall (ABJ ’33), an alumna who played a pivotal role in the creation of the Peabody Awards.

Smithgall celebrated her 110th birthday in April and died at her home on June 25 in Gainesville, Georgia.

“Lessie Smithgall is a foundational, iconic member of the Grady College family,” said Charles Davis, dean of Grady College. “What a story! What a woman.”

Her impact on Peabody began during her work at WSB radio following graduation when she introduced her boss, Lambdin Kay, to John Drewry, then dean of Grady School, later named Grady College. Kay, who also served on the executive committee of the National Association of Broadcasters, wanted to find a home for awards that recognized excellence in radio, similar to the Pulitzer Prize.

Following the introduction, Kay and Drewry created the Peabody Awards, the world’s oldest and most prestigious award for honoring stories that matter in broadcast and electronic media. The first awards were presented on March 29, 1941 at the Commodore Hotel in New York City.

“Peabody is forever grateful for her, and she will be dearly missed,” said Jeffrey P. Jones, executive director of the Peabody Awards. “As has often been noted, Mrs. Smithgall was instrumental in a key series of events that led to the formation and location of the Peabody Awards at Grady College and the University of Georgia. But what is often less noted is that Mrs. Smithgall and her husband Charles were generous donors and supporters of the program, including establishing an endowment and naming the Lambdin Kay Chair for the Peabodys for her beloved boss and general manager of WSB radio.  She attended the Peabody ceremonies in New York many times, and continued to support and cheer the program over her lifetime.”

Jones is the current Lambdin Kay professor.

In a remembrance of Smithgall published in The Gainesville Times, Smithgall recounts meeting Walter Cronkite at one of the Peabody Awards ceremonies.

“I told him ‘I’ve always admired you so much. For one thing, you’ve still got such a good head of hair. Then, you’re still playing tennis. And you are a good broadcaster,'” Smithgall said of Cronkite.

Horace Newcomb, who served as the Peabody Awards director before Jones and held the chair, talked about Smithgall’s impact at Grady College in a 2011 interview with The Gainesville Times.

“She is considered one of the leading graduates of the Grady College,” Newcomb said. “Her career with her husband in newspapers and radio is impressive in itself and of course the family’s philanthropy throughout the state is massive.”

The Peabody Awards also hosts a lecture every year known as the Peabody-Smithgall lecture in her honor. Previous speakers have included John Huey, retired editor-in-chief at TIME and historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Smithgall is a 1933 graduate of Grady School where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the social sorority Alpha Gamma Delta.

It was her first job at WGST radio in Atlanta where she met her husband, Charles, before they both left to work at WSB radio in Atlanta. She and Charles moved to Gainesville in 1941 when he began radio station WGGA. In 1947, they bought what is now known as The Gainesville Times, which they sold in 1981.

She and her late husband were pillars in the arts throughout Georgia and in the Gainesville community. Among their legacies are the Smithgall Woods Conservation Area in Helen, Georgia, The Smithgall Arts Center in Gainesville and the North Georgia Community Foundation, among many others.

Smithgall received many accolades for the impact in her community including the Woman of Distinction from the Girl Scouts, the first Georgia Entertainment Arts and Legacy Award, and the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service, which she received with her husband.

In 2008, she channeled her love of writing and reading to author her own memoir, “I Took the Fork.”

Her obituary concludes with the following passage from her book:

“I wanted to be Celestia ‘Lessie’ Bailey Smithgall, who is what she is, who kept the faith, who persevered, who did not take herself too seriously, who for the most part, lived a good life and did a little good along the way. I pray that I have been that person.”

Fulfilling the promise of doing “a little good along the way,” for Grady College and Peabody Awards and so many others, Smithgall made a lasting impact. For that, we are all grateful.

For more information about Lessie Smithgall, please see the following: