‘Jeopardy!’: Late Champion Brayden Smith’s Mother Speaks Out After Show’s Touching Tribute

by Thad Mitchell

Tributes to fallen Jeopardy! champion Brayden Smith continue to pour in during the show’s yearly Tournament of Champions.

Smith was supposed to participate in this year’s Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions before his tragic death earlier this year. He won five straight episodes of the game show in December of last year, accumulating more than $115,000 during his run. At only 24-years-old Smith would have been a top contender in this year’s tournament. Tragically, he passed away on February 5 after a surgical procedure.

Several Jeopardy! champions, including tournament host Buzzy Cohen, have paid tribute to Brayden Smith during the Tournament of Champions. The outpouring of support has not been lost of Smith’s family or loved ones. On Friday, as the tournament concludes its first week, Brayden’s mother, Debbie Smith, thanked the show for their kindness. She used social media to express her gratitude to the Jeopardy! family for their donation to the Brayden Smith Fund.

“Our family is deeply touched by Jeopardy’s Tournament of Champions tribute to Brayden and its pledge to support the Brayden Smith Memorial Fund,” Debbie Smith writes in the tweet. “What a formidable group of Champs. Brayden would feel honored to be counted among you.”

Jeopardy! Honors the Late Champion

Debbie Smith also includes a video from Jeopardy! producers announcing their donation to the Brayden Smith Fund. Cohen delivers the message and also calls Brayden a brilliant and authentic Jeopardy! champion.

“You have now met all 15 of the players qualifying for the Tournament of Champions — well, almost all of them,” Cohen says. “Brayden Smith, the incredible young man who won five shows and $115,000 in January, passed away earlier this year. Brayden’s family has established a fund in his name and Jeopardy! will be donating to that fund. We want to express our best wishes and condolences to his family.”

Despite his winning streak airing in December, Smith’s episodes were recorded earlier in the year in October. That means his episodes were among the very last for legendary Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. Earning the nickname Billy Buzzsaw from Trebek, Smith was a force to be reckoned with during his reign as champion. He would later proclaim in a tribute video that getting to meet Trebek was the best part of his run.

The 2021 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions will wrap up its first week of competition later this evening. It will heat up next week as first-round winners duke it out for a grand prize of $250,000.