Although he passed away in 2003 at the age of 85, the great influence and legacy of Chesterfield Smith (JD 48) can be felt daily at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. From the Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom that hosts some of the most prestigious speakers visiting UF Law, to the legislative and legal monuments forged by Smith that are still being studied in its classrooms today, he is very much a part of the ongoing life of the law school.
And his legacy isstill growing, thanks to a bequest from Smith’s wife, Jacqueline Allee Smith (JD 78), of
Coral Gables, to establish the Chesterfield Smith Eminent Scholar Chair Fund. Upon Allee Smith’s passing, the $1 million bequest will transition the existing Chesterfield Smith Professorship into the Chesterfield Smith Eminent Scholar Chair.
The Eminent Scholar Chair is the most prestigous acadmeic appointment to Univerisyt of Florida professors and UF Law.
The Chesterfield Smith Eminent Scholar Chair Fund will bolster resources available to faculty who hold this position and will enhance UF Law’s research and scholarship opportunities.
“Chesterfield Smith was truly a giant in the legal profession, and his legacy as one of UF’s most prominent and influential alumni is forever established,” UF Law Dean Robert Jerry said. “His ABA presidency was certainly one of the ABA’s finest hours, and his messages to law students, such as his famous statement ‘If you don’t intend to work to improve the quality of justice, then I hope you flunk your exams,’ will be repeated to all generations.”
Allee Smith — who has headed the bankruptcy offices in the Holland & Knight Tampa offices, served as dean of St. Thomas University School of Law and was the first female president of the American Bar Foundation — said she is pleased to help continue her husband’s legacy.”
“Chesterfield loved the law and the legal profession. He spent his entire professional life trying to improve both,” she said. “He tirelessly and unceasingly exhorted lawyers to honor their duty, created by the privileges granted to them by the states, to provide services or efforts to make improvements in laws for those who have little or no access to the system of justice.”
She said her husband cared very much for UF Law and was always available for advice and assistance to the university and law school.
“He gave of himself unstintingly,” she said. “The foundation of his care was the recognition of all that both gave him through his education.”
Chesterfield Smith stood as an exemplary lawyer and advocate of the rule of law. Smith’s numerous influential positions included serving as president of The Florida Bar, chair of Florida’s Citizens for Judicial Reform and member of the Federal Commission on Executive, Legislative and Judicial Salaries. Smith was largely responsible for establishing uniform rules of procedure in Florida Courts and is the “father” of the modern Florida Constitution.
“Chesterfield also early championed the recruitment of minorities and women into the major law firms,” Allee Smith said. “His personal ethic was to do good, work hard, and have fun along the way.”
Smith is possibly best known for his performance during his American Bar Association presidency —Allee Smith said the ABA is often referred to as “before Chesterfield Smith” and “after Chesterfield Smith.” He was among the first public figures to call for President Richard Nixon’s impeachment and resignation and for the disbarment or other disciplinary actions against lawyers who violated legal codes of ethics in the Watergate scandal. Smith’s statement that “No man is above the law” drew national headlines.