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Willis Smith

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Willis Smith

Willis Smith
United States Senator
from North Carolina
In office
November 27, 1950 – June 26, 1953
Preceded by Frank P. Graham
Succeeded by Alton Lennon
Personal details
Born (1887-12-19)December 19, 1887
Norfolk, Virginia
Died June 26, 1953(1953-06-26) (aged 65)
Bethesda, Maryland
Resting place Historic Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh, North Carolina
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Trinity College
Profession Law
Religion Methodism

Willis Smith (December 19, 1887 – June 26, 1953) was a Democratic U.S. senator from the state of North Carolina between 1950 and 1953.

Early life and education

Born in Norfolk Virginia, he moved to North Carolina before age 2. After graduating from Trinity College (now the undergraduate liberal arts college of Duke University) in 1910 and Duke University Law School in 1912, he became a practicing attorney—but interrupted his work to serve in the United States Army during World War I. In 1912, he founded the law firm that eventually became known as Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan (informally "Smith Anderson").[1]

Each year, Duke University Law School awards the "Willis Smith Award" to the graduating law student with the highest academic average in the class.[2]

Political career

Smith served in the North Carolina House of Representatives from 1928 to 1932, and was briefly the speaker of that body in 1931.[3] He also served as a U.S. observer at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, as chairman of the American delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Bern, Switzerland in 1952, as chairman of the Duke University board of trustees (1947 - 1953), and as president of the American Bar Association (1945-1946).[4]

In the Democratic primary of 1950, Smith defeated incumbent Sen. Frank Porter Graham for the nomination. Graham had been appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the death of J. Melville Broughton and had served only a little over a year at the time of his defeat. In a campaign distinguished by race-baiting,[5] Graham, who was well known for his antiracist sympathies, was supported by President Harry Truman and the state's liberal Democratic faction, while Smith was aided by a young strategist named Jesse Helms.

Smith's service in the Senate was brief and unremarkable. He died suddenly in 1953 in Bethesda, Maryland and was interred at the Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina.


  1. ^ "Smith Anderson: A History of Excellence". 2008-04-26. Retrieved 2012-12-07. 
  2. ^ "Duke Law Class Notes". Retrieved 2012-12-07. 
  3. ^ "Biographical Directory of the United States Congress". 1953-06-26. Retrieved 2012-12-07. 
  4. ^ iPad iPhone Android TIME TV Populist The Page (1950-05-15). "Time Magazine, May 15, 1950". Retrieved 2012-12-07. 
  5. ^ "The 1950 Senate campaign - North Carolina Digital History". 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2012-12-07. 
Preceded by
Alexander H. Graham
Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Reginald L. Harris
United States Senate
Preceded by
Frank Porter Graham
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from North Carolina
Served alongside: Clyde Roark Hoey
Succeeded by
Alton Asa Lennon
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