Brayden Smith, a 24-year-old Jeopardy! champion, has died at age 24.
According to his obituary, the Nevada native passed away in Las Vegas on February 5, 2021. He graduated from the University of Nevada in 2020 with a degree in Economics and hoped to attend law school and work as an attorney for the federal government.
Smith’s obituary reads, “Brayden attained a lifelong dream as a five-time champion on the popular Jeopardy! television game show. His appearances were among the last hosted by Alex Trebek, and Brayden was hailed on social media as ‘Alex’s Last Great Champion’. He was a voracious reader and autodidact, a lover of knowledge and an advocate for justice.”
Smith is survived by his parents, Scott and Deborah Smith, and three brothers, Bryce, 26, Brock, 18, and Brody, 15.
Here’s what you need to know:
Smith Was a National Merit Scholar Semifinalist
Brayden's been bringing in the big bucks with 9 successful Daily Doubles in a row! pic.twitter.com/StFSIEHxco
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) December 18, 2020
Smith was a National Merit Scholar semifinalist. In school, he was the captain of the Quiz Bowl and helped lead his team to consecutive state runner-up finishes. During what his obituary calls his “senior campaign,” Smith was also recognized as the Harvey Dondero outstanding player and earned a college scholarship as a result of his success.
The obituary reads, “He could be explaining the symbolism in Citizen Kane one moment and the comedic timing in Dumb and Dumber the next.”
While competing on Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek gave him the name ‘Billy Buzzsaw’ because of his “ability to cut through his competition,” according to Deseret News.
A whiz when it came to Daily Doubles, Trebek once said of Smith, “Most impressive, I don’t know what to say.”
At this time, a cause of death has not been revealed. However, in a tweet, Smith’s mom, Debbie Smith, wrote that Brayden passed away “unexpectedly.”
— Debbie Smith (@debbieinlv) February 12, 2021
The Smith family is asking donations be made to the Brayden Smith Memorial Fund, which is “dedicated to furthering the educational aspirations of southern Nevada students.”
Smith Won $115,798 During His Five-Game Winning Streak
Making it to Jeopardy! was a life-long dream for Smith. When he spoke to The Ringer in early January, he shared, “I remember being really bad at it at first… In my defense, I was in elementary school.”
As the outlet notes, Trebek had been hosting the show for more than a decade when Smith was born.
Reflecting on his five-game winning streak, the young gameshow star revealed, “The only thing I didn’t want to do was embarrass myself on the show with a bad wager, a bad guess, [or] a head-slapping Final Jeopardy! guess. I didn’t really think I was crushing until Alex said after one game something like ‘most impressive, I don’t even know what to say.’”
In an interview, according to Deseret News, Smith described Trebek as a “mainstay” for him.
The outlet quotes him as saying, “The best part of it for me was spending time with [Trebek]. To finally be on stage with somebody that I’ve seen five nights a week every week for over a decade was really a dream come true.”