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Family, friends and former colleagues of the late Jock M. Smith gathered with university and community leaders on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 26 to dedicate his former law office as the new home for the Tuskegee National Alumni Association. After Smith’s passing in 2012, his family donated the office and the property on which it sits to the university.
“We look forward to having our alumni and other members of the campus community to use it with pride and a deep appreciation for the philosophy, unique character and accomplishments of Jock Smith,” said Dr. Charlotte P. Morris, Tuskegee University’s interim president.
“Thank you for loving my daddy,” said Jock Smith’s daughter, Janay Marriel Smith, who spoke on behalf of her mother, Yvette Smiley-Smith, and other family members. “Thank you for accepting a skinny kid from New York who didn’t know much about anything when he got here, but when he left this esteemed university, he was already among giants, ready to take his place in history. And he wanted the world to know what Tuskegee was about.”
Tuskegee Mayor Lawrence “Tony” Haygood signaled that the university’s additional presence in the city’s core emulates Smith’s interest in civic involvement and pride.
“Tuskegee University graduates are involved throughout this community, and now have an additional presence as the anchor of this corner on Main Street,” Haygood said. “What you see today is a further step in strengthening community and university relationships.”
John E. Page, chairman of Tuskegee University’s Board of Trustees, cited Smith’s legacy as a “powerful, legal professional” who served as an exemplar for Page and other attorneys early in their careers.
“We will ensure the legacy of Jock Smith continues,” Page said. “We will make sure this structure will be maintained and will stand for the same commitment to investing in the city, culture and advocacy as Jock did.”
Burt Rowe, president of the Tuskegee National Alumni Association, lauded the university’s support by providing the organization a home.
“Jock supported TNAA above and beyond that of being a member. He served as legal counsel, provided excellent leadership and ensured the organization remained viable,” Rowe said. “The spirit of Jock Smith will live on and guide us as we plot the future of our national alumni association.”
Founded in 1905, the Tuskegee National Alumni Association has a diverse and rich history of bringing Tuskegee’s alumni together to support the institution, its students and each other. Rowe credited the gift of Smith’s office as providing a place for alumni to gather and fellowship, association leaders to plan, and a location through which it can partner with the university to recruit students, host visitors and archive vital organizational records.
Smith graduated from Tuskegee University in 1970 and earned his law degree at the University of Notre Dame in 1973. While an undergraduate student, Smith served as president of Tuskegee University’s Student Government Association.
Before his death, he came to be known nationally as a distinguished trial lawyer and civil litigator. In 2004, his landmark $1.6 billion dollar jury verdict was that year’s largest and, at the time of his death, had remained the highest amount ever awarded an African-American attorney.
He co-founded the national law firm of Cochran, Cherry, Givens and Smith, which later evolved into The Cochran Group, one of the country’s most recognized civil plaintiff and criminal defense law firms. At the time of his death, Smith served as a national partner in the firm and managing partner of the firm’s Tuskegee office. His professional career also included responsibilities as an assistant Alabama attorney general, a city municipal judge, and a county attorney — in addition to serving Tuskegee University as a professor of political science and a member of its Board of Trustees.
For more information about the Tuskegee National Alumni Association, visit www.tuskegeenationalalumni.org.
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