Home » News » Wm. Reece Smith Jr., legendary Florida lawyer and law professor at Stetson University College of Law, has died

Wm. Reece Smith Jr., legendary Florida lawyer and law professor at Stetson University College of Law, has died


Legendary Florida lawyer William Reece Smith Jr., who served for decades as a distinguished professorial lecturer at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla., died on Jan. 11. Smith was 87.

Wm. Reece Smith at Stetson University College of Law

Wm. Reece Smith at Stetson University College of Law

Smith joined the Carlton Fields law firm in Tampa, Fla., in 1953, most recently serving as chairman emeritus. In 1954, he joined Stetson’s teaching faculty and in 1991 was named a distinguished professorial lecturer.

“This is a huge loss not only for Stetson University, but for the state of Florida,” said Stetson president Wendy B. Libby. “Reece Smith was a giant in the legal world and will be sorely missed by the Stetson community. In short order, he became a good friend to my husband, Richard, and me. He welcomed us with open arms into the St. Petersburg community, and I appreciated his wise counsel through the years.”

“The Stetson community mourns his passing but is honored that Reece chose to be a part of our family,” said Stetson Law Dean and Professor of Law Christopher Pietruszkiewicz. “Smith was a colleague, mentor and friend to so many in the Stetson community.”

Smith dedicated more than 60 years of service to the legal profession, working tirelessly to increase the legal services available to people who cannot afford them. Smith founded Florida Legal Services and served as its first president. He served as city attorney of Tampa, chair and trustee of numerous colleges and universities, interim president of the University of South Florida, and as board member of countless religious, charitable, civic and professional organizations.

Smith was president of the Hillsborough Bar, Florida Bar, American Bar and International Bar Associations. Throughout his notable career, Smith has engaged in both trial and appellate practice, arguing cases at every level of the state and federal systems, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Smith was inducted into Stetson University College of Law’s Hall of Fame and he is the subject of the 2010 biographical book, A Consummate Lawyer, written by Stetson University College of Law Professor Emeritus Michael Swygert.

Smith served the Stetson community in a number of ways. He was a member of the Stetson University College of Law Board of Overseers and Stetson University Board of Trustees. The courtroom at Stetson’s Tampa Law Center is named in Smith’s honor. Stetson established the William Reece Smith Jr. Award in 1990 to honor outstanding contributions to public service, the justice system and the community.