Wm. Reece SMITH Jr.

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    - Bill Mitchell
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SMITH, Wm. Reece Jr., noted Tampa lawyer, educator, public servant, and local, state, national and inter national bar leader, died peacefully at his home on January 11, 2013, after a brief illness. He was born September 19, 1925, in Athens, Tennessee and was predeceased by his parents, Gladys Elizabeth Moody and William Reece Smith. He is survived by his son, William Reece Smith, III, daughter-in-law, Rachel-Anne Winter Smith, his grandson, William Reece Smith, IV, (Liam), his cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Lee Smith of Marietta, Ga. and their children and grandchildren; a number of cousins, who are descendants of his mother's oldest brother, Thomas Edwin Moody of Plant City, Florida; and his dear friend and former wife, Marlene Medina Smith. The family expresses its gratitude to the caregivers at Senior Solutions, who lovingly cared for Reece in his final days: Jennifer Costello, RN and Administrator, Nathalie Speights, and Christiana Madsen. Besides his family, Mr. Smith is also survived by millions of people in this country and across the world who have benefitted from the pro bono services they received as a result of his efforts. Mr. Smith was reared in Plant City and after graduating from Plant City High School, went to the University of South Carolina, where he was a varsity letterman and starting quarterback of the Gamecock's football team, playing in the first Gator Bowl. During WWII, he served in the United States Navy, with the rank of ensign, on the USS Columbia. He later received his law degree from the University of Florida, graduating first in his law school class with high honors, and serving as Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review. He was a member of Florida Blue Key, Phi Kappa Phi and the University of Florida Hall of Fame. After graduation, he attended Christ Church, University of Oxford, England, as a Rhodes Scholar. In addition to having fun in Europe with scholars from all over the world, he met the then Princess Elizabeth on a double date. Mr. Smith practiced law in Hillsborough County, Florida for over 59 years, coming to the office daily until a few weeks ago. He was Chair Emeritus of, and took great pride, in his law firm, Carlton Fields, which developed under his leadership from a small local firm into one of the south's largest and most distinguished law firms. His firm will serve as honorary pallbearers at his service. While serving as City Attorney for the City of Tampa in the 1960s, he helped to diffuse race riots growing out of the police shooting of a black man in the back. The subsequent burning and looting of parts of the City as a result of this shooting was his first real test in dealing with racial tensions that were happening across the country. He was instrumental in establishing a Bi-Racial Committee, under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce, that resulted in training Tampa police officers to assure better race relations, which continues to serve today as a community forum. He helped to mediate racial issues arising in the community and improve race relations for many years and, for his long-standing efforts, received the E.L. Bing Award. Reece Smith was a former President of the Hillsborough County Bar Association; The Florida Bar Foundation; The Florida Bar; the National Conference of Bar Presidents; the American Bar Endowment; the American Bar Foundation; and the American Bar Association (ABA). He was the first American elected as President of the International Bar Association. He was a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, and the International Society of Barristers and a member of the Council of the American Law Institute. During 1976-77, Reece Smith was interim president of the University of South Florida. Earlier, he served for over 20 years as an adjunct faculty member of Stetson University College of Law where, in 1991, he was appointed Distinguished Professorial Lecturer. He also was a trustee and vice-chair, Board of Trustees, Bethune-Cookman College and a member of the Board of Trustees of Stetson University. He served for many years on selection committees for Rhodes Scholars and was Secretary of the Florida Committee for over 25 years. He was a long-time member of the Board of Overseers of Stetson University College of Law and a member of the advisory boards of the University of South Florida, the University of South Carolina, Florida State University College of Law, the University of Miami College of Law, and the University of South Carolina College of Law. Mr. Smith was active throughout his career in the legal aid movement. While serving as President of the American Bar Association, he organized and successfully led opposition against efforts to abolish the Legal Services Corporation and, nationwide, he long championed and organized voluntary pro bono legal services for the poor at state and local levels. He founded Florida Legal Services and the ABA Center for Pro Bono Legal Services. For his work to improve the delivery of legal services to the poor, Mr. Smith received the ABA Pro Bono Publico Award, Arthur von Briesen Award of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association; the Alvin J. Arnett Award of the National Client's Council, Inc.; and the Herbert Harley Award of the American Judicature Society. He helped establish the ABA Pro Bono Center, promoting voluntary projects that grew in number from 50 to more than 1,000, and worked as President of the International Bar Association to set up systems for the provision of pro bono services by lawyers in countries that previously had no such practice. He was also a recipient of The Florida Bar Foundation Medal of Honor and the American Bar Association's highest recognition, the "rarely given" ABA Gold Medal, for "exceptionally distinguished service to the cause of American Jurisprudence." He was the first recipient of the "Wm. Reece Smith, Jr. Award for Public Service," from Stetson College of Law, as well as the first recipient of "The William Reece Smith, Jr. Special Services to Pro Bono Award" from National Association of Pro Bono Coordinators. He was given the Fellows of the ABA Young Lawyers Division Award in 2007 in recognition of outstanding service to the profession and to the public. Mr. Smith also received the American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Eleventh Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals; the Herbert G. Goldberg Memorial Award from the Trial Lawyers Section, Hillsborough County Bar Association for his exemplary career as a trial and appellate advocate; and the Outstanding Lawyer Award of the Hillsborough County Bar Association. He was an inaugural member of the Stetson College of Law Hall of Fame, and the courtroom on the Tampa campus of Stetson Law School was named in his honor. Active in civic affairs, Reece served six years as president of the Tampa Philharmonic Orchestra Association and was founding president of the Florida Orchestra. In addition to numerous other civic work, he served as president of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce; as chair of the Chamber's Committee of 100; and as a member of the Mayor's Advisory Commission on Downtown Development. He received many awards for his public and civic service as well as 11 honorary doctoral degrees from institutions of higher learning. Shortly before his death, he was honored with the Florida Supreme Court's Lifetime Achievement Award. A biography of his life and career entitled, "A Consummate Lawyer", by Professor Michael I. Swygert, was published in 2010. Reece Smith was an active member of the Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa where funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday, January 17, 2013. A visitation will be held from noon to 1 p.m. at the Church, and a reception will follow the service at the Chester Ferguson Law Center of the Hillsborough County Bar Association, 1601 N. Tampa Street. Private burial services will be held in the family plot at Plant City Memorial Park, Plant City, Florida. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to one of the following charities: Bay Area Legal Services, for The William Reece Smith, Jr. Endowment Fund 829 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd., Suite 200 Tampa, FL 33602-3336; The Florida Bar Foundation 250 S. Orange Ave., Suite 600P Orlando, FL 32801-3362; The ABA Fund for Justice and Education 321 N. Clark Street Chicago, IL 60654-4714; The Hillsborough County Bar Foundation, for The Wm. Reece Smith, Jr. Building Endowment Fund 1610 North Tampa Street Tampa, FL 33602

Published in TBO.com from Jan. 12 to Jan. 13, 2013
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