Born on March 8, 1922 in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in Orlando, Florida, C. Earle Smith Jr. (AB, AM, PhD, Harvard University) or "Smitty" as he preferred to be called, was one of the early pioneers of the field of "archaeological botany" or "archaeoethnobotany"—what today is considered archaeobotany or paleoethnobotany. From 1970 until his death in 1987, C. Earle Smith Jr. was a professor in the Departments of Anthropology and Biology at the University of Alabama. During his time at UA, he was Chair of the Department of Anthropology (1981-1986) and President of the Society for Economic Botany (1979-1980). Before he arrived at the university, he was employed by the Gray Herbarium, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, the Taylor Memorial Arboretum, the Field Museum of Natural History and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A portion of Smith's documents and photographs (35 mm Kodachrome slides) are housed in the Ancient People and Plants Laboratory and are in the process of being digitized. The bulk of his papers, research notes, and correspondences are curated by the National Anthropological Archives at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.