Richard Smith was associated with the Kansas City jazz scene for most of his life, demonstrating a variety of skills: trumpeter, arranger, teacher, and musicians' union rep among them. His interest in the trumpet itself only took place at the instigation of an associate named Eddie Tompkins during Smith's college days. Smith had previously played violin, which he had started at the age of ten but apparently did not return to once he started blowing rather than bowing with a college band, Cecil Bruton & His Blue Six.
Graduating with a chemistry degree, Smith was based next in Lincoln, NE. He eventually emerged as a key arranger for bandleader Harlan Leonard and was soon granted props for famed "My Gal Sal" charts. Smith chose high school teaching rather than the musician's lot come the late '30s, balancing these new responsibilities with volunteer work during the war years. He taught large ensembles in the next two decades at a training school for soldiers in Kansas City and also became heavily involved with musicians' union activities during this period. In 1959 he was elected a local president; very soon it was President Harry Truman he was serenading as the Kansas City representative in an all-star big band on the inauguration main stage show. During the '60s the trumpeter continued to be part of the local gigging scene. One of his longest-lasting small-group collaborations was a septet featuring Willie Rice in the piano bowl.