WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Almost a century ago, one of the heirs of the tobacco tycoon RJ Reynolds died from a gunshot wound in the family’s Winston-Salem mansion, which is now known as the Reynolda house.
All these years later, the case remains unsolved, but for the first time, guests are invited to see all the evidence for themselves.
The case made headlines across the country in the 1930s, but the Reynolds family never wanted to discuss the death or the scrutiny surrounding it. Finally, the museum’s staff feels it is time to share the story.
The new exhibit is called “Smith and Libby: Two Rings, Seven Months, One Bullet.” It highlights the life and death of Smith Reynolds, the youngest child of RJ and Katharine Reynolds. The 20-year-old heir died from a gunshot wound on July 6, 1932.
At first, the coroner ruled the death a suicide, but a grand jury later determined Smith was shot and his newlywed wife and Broadway star, Libby Holman, as well as his best friend Ab Walker were charged with first-degree murder.
Ironically, the Reynolda Family asked for the charges to be dropped and the case was never brought to trial. So, to this day, we don’t know if Smith was murdered at the mansion or if he indeed killed himself.
The exhibits allow guests to follow Smith’s life story and determine what they believe happened. It also highlights how his death changed the city of Winston-Salem and shows how Libby Holman became a pivotal player in the civil rights movement in America.
“Smith and Libby” will be open through the end of the year at The Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem.