Tuskegee University Board of Trustees member, nationally acclaimed attorney Jock Smith dies
TUSKEGEE, Ala. (January 8, 2012) — Tuskegee University Board of Trustees member and nationally acclaimed attorney Jock M. Smith died today. The Tuskegee alumnus was a law partner of the late Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., and founder and senior partner in the national law firm Cochran, Cherry, Givens and Smith, with offices in Tuskegee, Los Angeles, New York, and other areas.
Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon expressed his condolences on behalf of the university and its constituents.
"Jock Smith's too early and sudden departure is a monumental loss to us all. He was a friend, a trustee and a devoted alumnus of Tuskegee University,” Rochon said. “Moreover, he was a strong advocate for the oppressed, the abused and the impoverished, locally, nationally and globally. His legacy will continue to inspire future generations of students."
Smith graduated from Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) with a Bachelor of Science degree in history in 1970. He received his juris doctorate from the University of Notre Dame in 1973.
Throughout his career, Smith obtained numerous record multi-million dollar verdicts in civil cases, including the 2004 fraudulent insurance case of Whittaker v. Southwestern Life Insurance Company, et al. The plaintiff was awarded $1.62 billion, the single largest such verdict at that time. In other cases, Smith served as plaintiffs counsel along with his late law partner, Cochran in the landmark $700 million environmental settlement against Monsanto, Inc. for residents of Anniston, Ala., the largest in the nation's history.
Among his accolades, Smith was inducted onto the President’s Advisory Council of the National Wildlife Federation, making him the first black person to serve on that board; honored with “keys” to the cities of New Orleans and Memphis; and received the inaugural Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Journey to Justice Award in 2005 at the National Bar Association Convention. Smith was appointed to the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees in 2011.
In 2002, New South Books published Smith’s autobiography, “Climbing Jacob’s Ladder: A Trial Lawyer’s Journey on Behalf of the Least of These.”
Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Ross-Clayton Funeral Home in Montgomery, Ala.