State Court Judge Jack Smith never let his title go to his head. He was widely known for his kind and professional treatment of everyone who appeared in his courtroom.
“He always thought of himself as a true public servant,” said DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger. “He was always extraordinarily respectful of council and parties who appeared before his court.”
Merck Smith, a local attorney, said his father once told him, “I am no more, or no less, important than anybody who walks into my courtroom; whether it is a juror, lawyer, or defendant in a criminal case, and I treat them all with the same respect.”
Jack Bryan Smith, of Decatur, died Saturday from complications of congested heart failure. He was 88. His body was cremated by the Cremation Society of Georgia, and a memorial event is planned for 2 p.m.-5 p.m., Dec. 9, at the Old Courthouse on the Decatur Square.
An Atlanta native and graduate of Decatur High School, Smith took classes at North Georgia College and Georgia Tech before entering the Air Force’s officer’s training academy. After his service was complete, he finished his undergraduate degree at Emory University and began to pursue a career in journalism. It didn’t take him long to realize he wanted to change careers, his son said, so he inquired about classes at Emory’s law school.
“And law is the career that worked out for him,” Merck Smith said, of his father.
Jack Smith spent more than a decade working as an assistant solicitor, and then solicitor, in DeKalb County, before he was appointed to the then-recently created State Court of DeKalb County in 1968. He was then elected, and reelected, to the post until he retired in 1998.
In 1994, one of his few, if not only, contested elections, after nearly 30 years on the bench, he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he should be reelected because he was efficient and fair.
“I can move cases fast. I know a lot of law. And I always like to listen to both sides before passing on any decision,” he said at the time, in response to newspaper survey asking why voters should choose him. “Competent, qualified by education and experience, and fair to both sides - that’s how I see myself.”
Merck Smith said he saw his father the same way.
“He was a legal scholar,” Smith said. “He knew the law and he knew his role in the law.”
In addition to his son, Smith is survived by his wife, Ingeborg B. Smith of Decatur, son Bryan Dorsey Smith of Raleigh, N.C.; and three grandchildren.
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