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BY BILL POWELL
Aframed map of the world, crisscrossed with lines of varying colors showing his travels hung in his study at home.
Bob Smith loved a good adventure. His home and the office he kept until his death on March 8, 2016, are filled with mementos from his wide-ranging travels through space, time, careers and hobbies. Even the office itself reflected its owner’s passion — it served as OWAA’s headquarters from 1963 to 1972.
Robert C. (Bob) Smith served as OWAA’s legal counsel from 1978 to 1998. He received the Ham Brown Award, OWAA’s “most prestigious recognition of a member for devoted past service to the organization over a period of continuous years,” in 1989. He gave 10 more years after that to the organization.
Bob was always busy, in a hurry, sometimes too much so. When I was fresh out of law school, he once assigned me a jury trial the day before it was scheduled to begin, because he realized he’d also scheduled himself for something else the next day. After working all night, I managed to win it, but feared that might open me to more such assignments. I invited him to lunch and explained that I didn’t think I functioned well without adequate preparation time, and asked that I get more warning for things like trials. I, the whippersnapper, asked him, the senior partner, former state representative, former mayor, decorated World War II and Korean War veteran where he served as an artillery spotter pilot, world traveler, leading trial lawyer, member and president of multiple boards: “Bob, how can you stand to live your life like this?” His reply made a kind of sense for the life he chose to live: “I can’t seem to get much done unless I have too much to do.”
Bob and I practiced law together for about 10 years until the end of 1991, when he retired from all practice except for one client: OWAA. He and I teamed up on much of that work until 1998, when I became OWAA’s legal counsel. I married his daughter Jeanne in 1984. Bob’s wife, Jean, died in 1995. His four children and his six grandchildren survive.
Bob’s last few weeks were spent in a skilled nursing facility, on hospice care. Despite physical weakness and frailty, Bob maintained a quick wit and kept track of things, complained if he didn’t get his daily paper or if he didn’t have lots of visitors with whom he could converse. He watched sports, outdoors and travel shows on TV and bantered with the staff. When one of his favorite staff members was upset after another patient yelled and berated her, very frail Bob asked if she wanted him to go beat up the other patient.
Bob’s death prompted an outpouring of news stories, editorials, public gratitude and storytelling. He was praised as “an old-fashioned lawyer” and “an old fashioned politician” whose military, legal and political careers, as well as his life, were focused on service. He is remembered as someone who had unfailing good will toward others.
At the end of his life, 92 and with a failing body but still with a courageous, adventurous spirit, Bob had fewer regrets for things undone than almost anyone I’ve known. His service to OWAA was great, varied and long. When asked a few weeks before his death about the idea of OWAA naming a permanent endowment fund after him, he liked it. Capturing any life in words, or in dollars, is impossible. The newly created Bob Smith Fund is intended to give both him and OWAA a little bite of immortality.
You can donate to the Bob Smith fund by visiting https://owaa.org/store/donation/voluntary-contribution/.
An obituary may be found at http://www.columbiatribune.com/obituaries/bobsmith/article_8693b524-e5d750c7-9b67-26d517aad47c.html ♦
— Bill Powell is OWAA’s legal counsel, succeeding his former law partner and father-in-law Bob Smith in that position. He is author of the “Legal Handbook for Freelancers,” and is a life member of OWAA, receiving its Ham Brown Award in 2005.
Bob Smith, OWAA’s former legal counsel died, March 8