Carrying on the legacy of ‘America’s lawyer’: $1 million bequest honors Chesterfield Smith

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.