Judge was in law more than 50 years

The Daily Herald - - LOCAL NEWS -

SEAT­TLE — Charles Z. Smith, Wash­ing­ton state’s first black Su­pe­rior Court judge and state Supreme Court jus­tice, has died at 89.

In a state­ment Tues­day, Gov. Jay Inslee cred­ited Smith’s “il­lus­tri­ous pur­suit of the law,” say­ing he demon­strated his com­mit­ment to jus­tice as he pros­e­cuted pub­lic cor­rup­tion and broke the state Supreme Court’s color bar­rier.

Smith died Sun­day in Seat­tle, The Seat­tle Times re­ported.

Born into a world of poverty and seg­re­ga­tion in Florida, Smith served as a court re­porter in the Army dur­ing World War II and was ad­mit­ted to the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton Law School with­out hav­ing to take the exam af­ter an as­so­ciate dean saw his col­lege tran­script.

He went on to work for more than 50 years as a lawyer and judge.

Gov. Booth Gard­ner ap­pointed Smith to a va­cancy on the Wash­ing­ton Supreme Court in 1988. But it wasn’t the first time Smith had been of­fered a seat on the high court.

As Smith re­called for an oral his­tory for the Wash­ing­ton State Her­itage Project in 2008, Gov. John Spell­man tried to ap­point him in 1981, but he de­clined be­cause he was just start­ing out in pri­vate prac­tice af­ter hav­ing spent 10 years as an as­so­ciate dean of the UW Law School.

In the oral his­tory, Smith de­scribed him­self as “ar­ro­gant” enough not to be em­bit­tered by the hur­dles racism posed.

“I al­ways thought I was bright. I did a lot of read­ing. Noth­ing both­ered me,” he said.

“The fact that I could not drink from a white wa­ter foun­tain didn’t bother me be­cause I didn’t need the wa­ter.”

Cur­rent U.S. Dis­trict Judges Ri­cardo Martinez and Richard Jones were among Smith’s stu­dents at the univer­sity.

Smith re­tired in 2002, when he reached the high court’s manda­tory re­tire­ment age of 75.

Smith is sur­vived by his wife of 61 years, Eleanor M. Smith; chil­dren Car­los Smith, Michael Smith, Stephen Smith and Feli­cia Git­tle­man; six grand­chil­dren and four sib­lings.

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