Chief Justice Charles Smith, father of Stephen Smith, passes

Dear Colleague,

It is with much sadness that I share news of the passing of Charles Z. Smith, father of Stephen Smith, Vice President of Human Resources and Legal Affairs.

Chief Justice Charles Smith broke ground as Washington’s first African-American state trial judge and Supreme Court justice. He worked for more than 50 years as an attorney and served as an associate dean of the UW School of Law, where he graduated and later taught. Throughout his legal career, he worked tirelessly for causes of social justice and human rights.

The Smith family said in a statement, he “lived an exemplary life founded on the three pillars of truth, justice, and freedom,” adding that “his legacy extends beyond his family to the larger community that he mentored and served.”

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Eleanor M. Smith, four children, six grandchildren, and four siblings. Funeral details are pending.

Please keep Stephen and his family in your heart and thoughts as they cope with this deep loss.

In support,
Cheryl Roberts, Ed.D.


  1. I read about Justice Smith in the newspaper, but did not realize he is Stephen’s father. The article also mentioned that he was a mentor to many. I hope his work and legacy inspires each of us. One person really can make a difference in the world. And we have the opportunity to be one, and to help grow many such persons. My condolences to Stephen and his family.

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