Ira Smith was born near Ione, Amador County, California in 1887. Following his boyhood in the Sierra foothills, he attended high school at Ione Union High School, commuting home by train. He then attended the University of California at Berkeley, graduating in 1911 with a BS in Commerce.
In 1915 he married Bertha McKeen, his lifelong helpmate and companion. Hired at Davis as a temporary bookkeeper in August 1916, he served the University of California at Davis for 39 years in increasingly responsible positions as cashier, accountant, assistant comptroller, and business manager. He played a major role in the development and expansion of the campus.
Upon his retirement on June 30, 1955, the Assembly of the California Legislature by Assembly Concurrent Resolution stated, in part, "..commend Ira F. Smith for distinguished service he has rendered to the University and State of California during his long and noteworthy career..."
Always interested in agriculture and particularly in good livestock, Mr. Smith was always helpful in facilitating the work of the Department of Animal Husbandry. In later years he acquired ranching properties and developed a sizeable flock of Romeldale sheep and a small herd of Hereford cattle in partnership with Miss Barbara C. Bell. In retirement he largely devoted his energies to his livestock enterprizes which gave him great enjoyment.