UF Law School Officials Cite Chesterfield Smith

GAINESVILLLE, Fla. – Officials of the University of Florida Levin College of Law mourned the loss Wednesday of Chesterfield Smith, 1948 with honors law school graduate and an international legal profession leader who they say “contributed tremendously not only to his profession but to the success and vision of this law school.”

Smith, 85, who died Wednesday, was founder and chairman emeritus of Holland & Knight LLP, the country’s eighth largest law firm and a supporter of and contributor to the UF College of Law

“Chesterfield Smith was a world citizen, truly one of the most important figures in the ‘Greatest Generation’, as Tom Brokaw said in his book,” said Dean Emeritus Jon Mills. “We have lost a giant who set the highest standards of courage, vision and commitment – not only in the legal profession but in every other aspect of the wonderful, complete, unselfish life he lead.”

Smith is one of four UF law school graduates who headed the American Bar Association in the last 40 years, more than any other law school during that time period. He served as president in 1973, nine years after he headed The Florida Bar. At the conclusion of his ABA tenure, a national committee including six former ABA presidents was formed to raise funds for establishment of the Chesterfield Smith Professors of Law at his alma mater.

Colleagues and friends initially raised over $250,000, with contributions still made annually, and three leading educators now hold such professorships – Fletcher N. Baldwin Jr., expert in international financial crimes and constitutional law; Michael W. Gordon, leading authority in corporate law, international business transactions; and Nancy E. Dowd, specializing in family, gender and constitutional law.

“Mr. Smith has been a generous, devoted and loyal friend of this school,” Dean Robert Jerry said. “One of his greatest legacies to our students and prospective attorneys everywhere is the very high bar he set through personal example of the necessity of active, effective involvement in the civic and charitable life of their communities.”

Smith while in law school was a member of Order of the Coif, Florida Blue Key, Phi Delta Phi and Phi Kappa Phi, and served until his death as a trustee of the Law Center Association. He also was a past president of the Law Review Alumni Association, member of board of advisors of the law school’s Center for Governmental Responsibility, and frequent law school commencement speaker.

In 1985, when Dean Emeritus Joseph R. Julin was appointed a Chesterfield Smith Professor of Law, he told graduates, “Just say the word ‘lawyer’ within Chesterfield’s hearing and you will see the smile of a man who loves lawyers, his profession and his College of Law. There is no greater challenge I can offer than to tell you to be Chesterfield Smith’s kind of lawyer – one who intends to make a difference which is likely to improve the quality of life for all people, everywhere.”

Published: July 17th, 2003

Category: News