Former U.S. District Judge Sidney O. Smith Jr. was a champion for justice, education and family. He wanted to see people do what was right, understand the laws of the land and love one another.
The Gainesville native chose a career in law because "serving others was his vocational calling," said his son and namesake, Sidney "Sid" O. Smith III. But as much as Judge Smith served the public, he was also there for his family.
"He did an incredible work as a lawyer and a judge, but he was also 100 percent a family man," said Mr. Smith, an attorney in Gainesville.
Sidney Olsin Smith Jr., of Gainesville, died Saturday, from complications related to cancer, at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. He was 88. His body has been cremated and a memorial service has been planned for 4 p.m. Tuesday at Grace Episcopal Church. Memorial Park North Riverside Chapel is in charge of arrangements.
Judge Smith received his law degree from the University of Georgia in 1949. He had attended Harvard for two years before joining the Army in 1943 during World War II, after which he returned to complete his undergraduate degree. During his career, he served as an assistant solicitor general for 10 years and a state court judge for almost three years. In 1965, he was appointed to the federal bench by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
In 1974, Judge Smith resigned from his federal position and returned to private practice. Soon thereafter, he was able to take up the family tradition of serving as a board member what was Brenau College in Gainesville. His father, mother and grandfather, all served as board members of the private institution, which is now Brenau University. A former chairman of the State Board of Regents, the judge was a leader in the school's effort to obtain full university status in the '90s, and was "instrumental" in the university's bid become a doctoral degree-granting institution, said David Morrison, vice president of communications at Brenau.
Dr. Ed L. Schrader, president of Brenau, said Judge Smith "was a classic southern gentleman and a scholar. The judge was perhaps the most thoughtful person I have ever known."
Judge Smith was also known for his, "fantastic sense of humor," said Ellen Andersen, a daughter who lives in Dalton. One of the family's favorite comical anecdotes involves his current wife, Carolyn Reed Smith. Judge Smith was married to his first wife, Patricia Horkan Smith, for 57 years when she died in 2001. The couple and then-Mrs. Reed, who had been widowed, were neighbors for approximately a year before Mrs. Smith died.
"When we started seeing each other, he told friends that I lived next door, was a gourmet cook and could drive at night," Mrs. Carolyn Smith said, with a hearty laugh. "And it was all true."
"And daddy had a hard time seeing at night," added Mrs. Andersen. "But that was his sense of humor, right there."
Judge and Mrs. Carolyn Smith married in 2004, but "packed 20 years in to eight," Mrs. Smith said.
Judge Smith is also survived by a second daughter, Charters Wilson of Charlottesville, Va., step-son Steve Sorrells of Gainesville; 11 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.