Paper Mates – Black Enterprise

Paper Mates

Letter writing today seems to be a dying communication and art form, but not for investment banker Valerian Butler Smith III. He has kept the tradition of written correspondence to family, close friends, and associates for more than 25 years. “There is a creeping casualness in the way we live today. As a businessman, I am a firm supporter of the ease of communications facilitated by e-mail, but easy has only rarely contributed to quality,” laments the Louisiana native.

Writing is in his blood. Smith’s great-grandfather Halbrooke “H.B.” Hundley published The Freelance, one of the first African American-owned newspapers, and his paternal grandmother, Wilia Halbrooke Hundley Smith, used the pseudonym Ada Burke to make submissions to Letters to the Editor columns to papers all over the country. “That has been my inspiration,” says Smith.

Smith feels that “written communication forces us to organize our thoughts and present them in a compelling way.” And of course, the right tools are essential.

Paper. Smith prefers paper and note cards that have a high cotton rag content. “I like it engraved, not thermographed, with my name or a personal family device, like a seal or a crest.” His favorite supplier is Dempsey & Carroll stationers (

Pens. Fountain pens are Smith’s preference for execution of penmanship: “The flow of the writing is physically smooth, comfortable, and precise.” Fountain Pen Hospital ( is an excellent source for brands, accessories, tools for repair, limited editions, and vintage pens.