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Attorney H.T. Smith to Keynote Fall Commencement


November 27, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla
. – Attorney H.T. Smith will keynote Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) fall commencement ceremony. The ceremony is scheduled for Friday, December 14 at 6 p.m. in the Alfred Lawson Jr. Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium.  The general public is invited.
   
Atty. Smith, who is an alumnus of FAMU, began his legal career as Miami-Dade County’s first African-American assistant public defender, and then as the County’s first African-American assistant county attorney.  For the past 39 years, Smith has practiced law in Miami, specializing in civil rights, personal injury and criminal defense.  He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America, Florida Super Lawyers, Law and Leading American Attorneys, and the National Law Journal recognized him as one of the top10 trial lawyers of the year.

In the landmark case of Aubrey Arthur Livingston v. State of Florida, Atty. Smith successfully persuaded the Florida Supreme Court to reverse a death penalty case and change the law in Florida requiring that in all future death penalty cases, jurors cannot be allowed to separate once they begin deliberations.

He was one of the lead attorneys in the successful legal challenge to Ward Connelly’s effort to pass a Constitutional Amendment outlawing affirmative action in public education, public employment and public contracting.  In his argument to the Florida Supreme Court, Smith described Connelly’s so-called “Civil Rights Initiative” as a “cruel hoax” on the people of Florida.

Smith was the founding president of the Black Lawyers Association of Dade County, now known as the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association.  He served as president of the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association, and as National President of the National Bar Association

He has devoted his entire legal career to “agitating” for justice wherever discrimination appeared.  He has successfully litigated numerous police brutality and employment discrimination cases. From 1986 to 1990, he chaired the Free South Africa Movement, leading the successful effort to persuade governmental entities, universities, and pension funds to divest their financial interests in companies doing business in apartheid South Africa.  From 1990-1993, Atty. Smith led the successful Boycott Miami Campaign, which was organized after local politicians snubbed Nelson Mandela during his historic visit to Miami. The boycott settlement resulted in significant economic and educational opportunities for African Americans, including the development of the first black-owned convention-quality hotel in the United States on Miami Beach; 25 full tuition scholarships per year at Florida International University’s (FIU) renown hospitality management program; creation of the Black Executive Forum; and establishment of the INROADS/Miami program.

In 1995, Smith led the effort to raise $4 million and built the 22,000 square-foot NFL YET Center in the Scott Carver Projects. This Youth Center provides computer training, homework assistance, educational programs, arts and crafts, health courses, and all types of sporting activities for 500 kids daily. Recently, the Center was expanded by 5,000 square foot at a cost of $1 million to add a multi-media room and a fitness arcade.

In 1997, he chaired the Declaration of Rights Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, championing a successful constitutional amendment proposed to make explicit that equal protection of the law is available to women and persons born outside of the United States.  He also served as co-chair of the successful $200 million Safe Neighborhoods Parks Bond referendum that upgraded parks in every community in Miami-Dade County.  Later that same year, Atty. Smith fought for equal rights for people regardless of sexual orientation when he served as co-chairman of the successful “Say No To Discrimination” election campaign in Miami-Dade County. 

In 2003, he was tapped to become the first director of the FIU College of Law’s Trial Advocacy Program. In 2006, the student body honored him with the prestigious “Pioneer Award” for his innovative excellence as a legal educator and in 2010 the University honored him as a “Top Scholar.”

Recently, Atty. Smith served as a charter board member of OUR KIDS of Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, which he oversees the provision of services for all abused, abandoned and neglected children.  Presently, Atty. Smith serves on the Board of Trustees for the University of Miami, and he is also the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Gwen Cherry Park Foundation.
   
He received his bachelors of science degree in mathematics from FAMU. Upon graduation, he received his commission as an officer in the United States Army serving a tour of duty in the Vietnam War.  He earned his juris doctor from the University of Miami School of Law.

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