Art Smith was born in Providence, Utah, and raised in Sparks, Nevada. He began his career as a home-delivery carrier for the Reno Evening Gazette during the Great Depression era of the 1930s. He graduated from Sparks High School in 1940 and, at the age of 19, began as a file clerk with the Sparks branch of First National Bank. After serving as a torpedo plane pilot for the United States Navy in World War II, Smith began his banking career as a teller with the Bank of Nevada in Las Vegas. Within just 14 years, and at the young age of 37, he was named president of the Bank of Nevada, making him the youngest chief executive of a major bank in the U.S. at that time. Eight years later, Smith was appointed president of the states largest financial institution, First National Bank, and was named chairman in 1969. Art Smith was highly respected nationally and assumed a leadership role with the American Bankers Association, which comprised 15,000 commercial banks. Smith was one of five named by the United States Comptroller of the Currency to perform a continuing review of banking procedures and policies. In 1967, Governor Paul Laxalt appointed Smith as a regent of the University of Nevada. After Smith retired as president and chairman of First Interstate Bank in 1984, he served as a trustee of two of the nations largest charitable organizations, The William M. Keck and the Donald W. Reynolds foundations, until his death in 1999.
Throughout his life, Art Smith was recognized for his outstanding civic and business achievements, but most important to him was his family, especially his wife of 52 years, Charlotte Smith, his children and grandchildren.