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The Honorable Jock Smith

Attorney, law professor, municipal court judge, and trial lawyer Jock Michael Smith was born on June 10, 1948, in New York City to Betty Lou Nance Bowers and Jacob Smith. Despite the untimely death of his father in 1956, Smith still excelled academically, receiving his B.S. degree from Tuskegee University in 1970 and his J.D. degree from the University of Notre Dame’s Law School on May 20, 1973.

After receiving his law degree, Smith then became a legal advisor to the NAACP’s Civil Rights Project in Broome County, New York. A year later, Smith moved to Alabama, and in 1977, he became the assistant attorney general for Montgomery, Alabama. That same year, Smith opened his own law firm in Tuskegee, Alabama where he represented plaintiffs and defendants in both criminal and civil suits until 1998. In 1987, Smith became a city municipal judge in Camp Hill, Alabama, and spent two years on the bench. In 1990, he became County Attorney in Macon County, Alabama. He represented the county in all legal matters for fifteen years. In 1993, Smith worked as an administrative law judge for Alabama’s Department of Environmental Management. The following year, he founded Scoring For Life, Inc., a non-profit organization that encourages teens, children and adults with motivational messages. In 1997, Smith became a principal stockholder and sports agent for Cochran Sports Management while working alongside Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. A year later, Smith joined Cochran at the firm of Cochran, Cherry, Givens & Smith, P.C. in Tuskegee, Alabama as a senior partner. In 1999, he also became a play-by-play announcer for Tuskegee University's Tiger Football and the Tuskegee Community Network. In addition to his legal career, Smith also taught at State University of New York at Binghamton and Tuskegee Institute.

Smith has received numerous awards, including honorary doctorates of Divinity Degrees from the Pentecostal Bible College, Tuskegee, Alabama and the Montgomery Bible Institute and Theological Center, Montgomery, Alabama, and keys to the cities of New Orleans, Louisiana, Memphis, Tennessee and Flint, Michigan. He has been recognized by the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association for tireless dedication and unwavering commitment, inducted into the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and received the Inaugural Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Journey to Justice Award in 2005 at the National Bar Association Convention. "The Martindale-Hubbell" legal publication has given Smith its highest rating, the AV Rating, and "Lawdragon" Legal Magazine in Los Angeles, California selected him as one of America’s Top 500 Trial Litigators in 2006 and 2007. Smith was inducted onto the President’s Advisory Council of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), making him the first African American to serve on that board. In 2002, he published his autobiography entitled, "Climbing Jacob’s ladder: a Trial Lawyer’s Journey in Behalf of the ‘Least of These’."

Jock Smith passed away on January 8, 2012.

Jock Smith was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 5, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.245

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/5/2007

Last Name

Smith

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Michael

Schools

Andrew Jackson High School

P.S. 15 Jackie Robinson School

I.S. 59 Springfield Gardens

Tuskegee University

Norte Dame Law School

First Name

Jock

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

SMI20

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Sylvia Dale Cochran

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

New York, New York, Las Vegas

Favorite Quote

Civility Is Never A Sign Of Weakness And Sincerity Is Always Subject To Scrutiny.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Alabama

Birth Date

6/10/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Tuskegee

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Crab Legs

Death Date

1/8/2012

Short Description

Law professor, attorney, and municipal court judge The Honorable Jock Smith (1948 - 2012 ) was senior partner at Cochran, Cherry, Givens & Smith, P.C. in Tuskegee, Alabama. He was a former judge for the State of Alabama and wrote his autobiography entitled "Climbing Jacob’s Ladder: a Trial Lawyer’s Journey in Behalf of the ‘Least of These’."

Employment

United States Customs Court

Police Youth Involvement Program

Urban League of South Bend and St. Joseph County

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Civil Rights Project

State University of New York at Binghamton

Tuskegee University

State of Alabama

Camphill Communities of North America

Law offices of Jock M. Smith

Alabama Department of Environmental Management

Macon County

Scoring for Life, Inc.

National Law firm of Cochran, Cherry, Givens & Smith, P.C.

Tuskegee Community Network

Cochran Sports Management

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Jock Smith's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Jock Smith lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls his relationship with his father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers his father's death

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes lessons from his father

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his father's education

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his mother's personality and his likeness to her

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his paternal grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Jock Smith talks about his paternal uncles

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his father's U.S. military service

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Jock Smith explains the origin of his name

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his father as a young man

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his father's life in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his neighbors on Nashville Boulevard in Queens, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers P.S. 15 in Queens, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls his childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes the demographics of his schools in Queens, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers J.H.S. 59, Springfield Gardens School in Queens, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls his experiences at Andrew Jackson High School in Queens, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls his decision to attend the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers his experiences at the Tuskegee Institute

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes what he learned at Tuskegee Institute

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers his classmates at the Tuskegee Institute

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Jock Smith talks about Tuskegee Institute President Luther Foster, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers his medical exemption from the draft

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his academic success at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers his extracurricular activities at the Tuskegee Institute

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers Gwendolyn Patton

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls his decision to attend law school

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls how he paid for his undergraduate tuition

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers working for Judge James Watson

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls his experiences of discrimination at the University of Notre Dame Law School in South Bend, Indiana

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers his graduation from the University of Notre Dame Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Jock Smith talks about his experiences of racism

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls working for the Urban League of South Bend and St. Joseph County

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls working for the NAACP in Binghamton, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers teaching law at the Tuskegee Institute

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls joining the State of Alabama Office of the Attorney General

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls his judgeships

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers the case of the State of Alabama v. Donell Williams

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls his historic victory in an insurance fraud case, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls his historic victory in an insurance fraud case, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls protecting a client from wrongful eviction

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Jock Smith talks about his motivation as a lawyer

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers his recommitment to Christianity

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers joining the Christian Life Church in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers meeting Johnnie Cochran

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers meeting Keith Givens and Sam Cherry

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers establishing the law firm of Cochran, Cherry, Givens and Smith

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Jock Smith recalls the case of Tolbert v. Monsanto Company

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers Johnnie Cochran

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers Robert Jeter et al. v. Orkin Exterminating Company, Inc., pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers Robert Jeter et al. v. Orkin Exterminating Company, Inc., pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers representing Carolyn Whittaker

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable Jock Smith reflects upon his awards and influences

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - The Honorable Jock Smith talks about the law firm of Cochran, Cherry, Givens and Smith

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - The Honorable Jock Smith remembers meeting his second wife

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his wife, Yvette Smiley-Smith

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his daughter, Janay Smith

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - The Honorable Jock Smith talks about Cochran Sports Management, LLC

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - The Honorable Jock Smith talks about his collection of historical artifacts

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - The Honorable Jock Smith talks about the significance of sports history

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - The Honorable Jock Smith talks about writing his autobiography

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - The Honorable Jock Smith describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - The Honorable Jock Smith reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - The Honorable Jock Smith shares a message to future generations

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - The Honorable Jock Smith narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

4$2

DATitle
The Honorable Jock Smith recalls his historic victory in an insurance fraud case, pt. 2
The Honorable Jock Smith remembers establishing the law firm of Cochran, Cherry, Givens and Smith
Transcript
And the thing is in closing argument to the jury I remember telling the jury this, "You know normally ladies and gentlemen look at all these lawyers they have over there against me and my client and I would be dwarfed by their presence," I said, "but I'm a Bible toting Christian and I brought my sling shot to court with me, ladies and gentlemen. You know my Bible tells me ladies and gentlemen that Jesus spoke in John 10:10 and told us that the thief would come in the night to kill, steal, and destroy, but I have come to give you life and to give you joy abundantly. That must mean that there, that, that, that somewhere there's a robber and a thief somewhere in this courtroom ladies and gentlemen and there they sit." The jury returned a verdict in twenty minutes of $5 million. It was the largest verdict, one of the largest verdicts in the history of the state at the time and the largest verdict an African American lawyer had ever gotten in Alabama. And I rode that verdict for many years. I also remember telling the jury, "Ladies and gentlemen Miller Ephraim has died, but fortunately we were able to read his deposition to you. You know when Knute Rockne went to see George Gipp one day in his hospital room and he was dying, he told him, 'One day when you really need to win a game tell him to win one for me.' Notre Dame [Notre Dame Fighting Irish] was playing in a national championship game against Army [Army West Point Black Knights] and they were behind twelve to nothing at halftime as the story is told. Knute Rockne went into that locker room and told the Fighting Irish what he had to tell them about the story of George Gipp that day and he said, 'Win one for the Gipper.' Ladies and gentlemen, Miller Ephraim is looking down on these proceedings today. He sits with Jesus along the right hand of the Father and expects you to bring him good news based on your verdict; win one for the Miller now." And the jury did. And I sat there for about five or ten minutes after the court was over. A gentleman who was an elected official came to me and said, "Jock [HistoryMaker Jock Smith] do you realize you won the biggest case a black lawyer has ever won in Alabama, but you're sitting there, you haven't moved since the verdict. You should be jumping up and down and be excited." I saw my whole life flash in front of me. I saw my father's [Jacob Smith] death. I heard the edict, "You'll be a good garbage worker." I remember, "You have a gift to speak." All this stuff flashed in front of me and I thanked the Lord for blessing me that day on December 15th, 1988, about four o'clock in the afternoon when the jury not only said $5 million, but said something more important: well done my good and faithful servant. That was the day I knew I had beaten everything that Mr. Stein [ph.] had told my mother [Betty Lou Bowers Nance]. There was no doubt in my mind that was it when the jury, when that foreman of that jury stood up and said $5 million I knew then that I had accomplished something significant. And those were the two cases I most remember before my partnership with Johnnie Cochran. There were some others that I won and settled and made money and it was not making money, it's more to life than that I could tell you about, but it's not gonna tell you about that 'cause that's really not what HistoryMakers [The HistoryMakers] is really about. It's not about money in your pocket, it's about people that you've helped. I've given you some indication.$We started in Columbus, Georgia, because there was a gentleman there named Joe Wiley [Joseph Wiley] that had a preacher, a black preacher who, who was recommending to Givens [Keith Givens]. Though that office only stayed open a year, it didn't live out the true creed of its meaning as the Declaration of Independence says. It still became a cornerstone of the beginnings of Cochran, Cherry, Givens, Smith [Cochran, Cherry, Givens and Smith; The Cochran Firm]. We then merged my Tuskegee [Alabama] office, the Dothan [Alabama] office of Cherry and Givens and the Los Angeles [California] office of Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. [Johnnie Cochran]. His three other offices in the firm probably six months after the origins of July of '98 [1998], so by January of '99 [1999] we were probably sitting with, we were sitting with four offices, Columbus, Georgia; Tuskegee, Alabama; Dothan Alabama; Los Angeles, California. Johnnie had continued his relationship with Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck, the DNA experts, after the O.J. trial [People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, 1995] and had some kind of arrangement with them in New York [New York]. Six months later after the, so this would have been about a year later, after July of '98 [1998], Johnnie turned over that office to us, so then we had New York as well. He began to trust us, began to entrust more to us based on our earned respect and comradeship together. Cherry [Sam Cherry] and Givens are two white men, so I was the only black, only African American partner in this venture. We began to speak with people in larger cities that we had identified. We kind of redlined the United States, in so called Cochran friendly cities. We had, and the list probably had fifteen, twenty cities on there. We categorized them by priority. Near the top of the list was Atlanta [Georgia]. Chicago [Illinois] was near the top of the list. The District of Columbia [Washington, D.C.] was near the top, and there were some others, I think Memphis [Tennessee] and New Orleans [Louisiana] may have been near the top, Philadelphia [Pennsylvania], some others. And what we began to do was go into these cities and interview these perspective lawyers that we identified based on references that would be good for us and for our operations, to run our operations in these cities. These are lawyers who already had existing firms that were already successful. We didn't take any neophytes on; we took existing lawyers. In, in Atlanta, we selected this Hezekiah Sistrunk [Hezekiah Sistrunk, Jr.] who you know, and in Chicago we selected Jim Montgomery [HistoryMaker James D. Montgomery] who you also know. So, other cities we selected other people. We began to put these offices together. Now I was one of the people that would go and interview these people and I would help make the selections. Like if it got down to a taffy pool I'd go in and say, "You know Johnnie I think we need to go with Jim Montgomery in Chicago. We, we don't, don't need to go with Corboy and Demetrio." Somebody try to say "Ca- ." I said, "No, no, no, no this is an African American firm, no we need to go with Jim Montgomery," and I had to fight for that. I had to fight some of my partners--I won't name them, but I had to fight them 'cause of Jim's age is another thing. They said, "He's too old." "No, no, no, no, no, no this man will be good." Turned out to be right. Same thing in Atlanta, Hezekiah Sistrunk was my choice there. There was another man who was being considered. I said, "No, no we don't need that man. His personal conduct is very questionable. I've seen some things. We don't want this in the firm. Hezekiah Sistrunk." So, we put, we handpicked these people and, and we made some mistakes like any other firm, but we made a lot better choices than we made poor choices and that has sustained the firm and the firm grew to seventeen offices before Johnnie's death. We had opened in New Orleans and St. Louis [Missouri] were the last two offices we opened before Johnnie expired this earth with the Lord--went on to be with the Lord. We had opened D.C. We'd opened Memphis. We'd opened Las Vegas [Nevada]. We, of course as I mentioned already Chicago, Atlanta, and there were others. Los Angeles and New York were already up and running, so we had most of the major cities. We still didn't have Philadelphia. In fact, I would say the only major cities we didn't have at Johnnie's death probably, that I call major African American cities would be probably Philadelphia and Chica- not Chicago, Detroit [Michigan]. We've since opened up in those cities, but we had not at the time of Johnnie's--at the time Johnnie was living.