- Memorial Service
- 10:00am - Wednesday, July 30, 2014
- St. Michael Catholic Church
- 1801 Sage Rd. (Map)
Houston, TX 77056
John Patrick Smith was a husband, father, friend, counselor and lawyer. He was exceptional in all these roles until his last day on Sunday, the 20th of July 2014.
John was born on the 25th of June 1937, in Yuma, Arizona, the son of James and Armilda Smith. From 1973 until 2006, John was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Texas, serving under 10 Presidentially-appointed United States Attorneys. In his 33 years of public service, he held positions as the Chief of the Criminal Division, Chief of Fraud Division, Chief of Special Prosecutions, Chief of South Texas Operations, and Chief of the Brownsville Division. John left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2006 and entered private practice. As he was quick to remind people, John never “retired” but just changed jobs and never stopped working in the profession he loved.
John earned both his Bachelor’s degree in 1959 and his Juris Doctor in 1966 from Oklahoma City University. He was a proud member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon (Deke) fraternity. His first job out of law school was with the Oklahoma County Public Defender’s Office. In 1973, John was hired by United States Attorney Tony Farris and assigned to the Brownsville Division as its only Assistant United States Attorney at the time, succeeding future Texas Supreme Court Justice Raul Gonzalez. He served in Brownsville until 1985, handling a heavy docket and earning the abiding respect and friendship of judges he appeared before, his colleagues, agents, and opposing lawyers. In Brownsville and throughout deep South Texas, John formed many longstanding relationships and continued to enjoy the love and respect of so many in that part of Texas until his passing. People undoubtedly responded to John’s embrace of South Texas, and long after he moved to Houston in 1985, John returned frequently to the area for both work and fun. Indeed, his wife Juanita is a Brownsville native.
John practiced law as he lived his life: with compassion, fairness, humor, and above all, integrity. These qualities made him a model prosecutor, and his deep commitment to justice, fairness, and lack of malice made him an unwavering voice of reason. John was charming and spirited, and in the courtroom he hit without gouging. He was a gentleman. John’s integrity, sound judgment, and discerning intellect earned him the respect of all who knew him, and he became the confidante of many judges, defense attorneys, and prosecutors. He was humble and held a low opinion of self-importance and self-righteousness, yet he delighted in their inherent humor and inevitable undoing. Like the Boy Scouts he served as Scoutmaster, John was always prepared and famously thrifty. (From Heaven, he’s undoubtedly outraged that more than a dime was paid for publishing this obituary!)
John was the consummate counselor with a tremendous capacity to listen and provide wise, soft-spoken counsel—often delivered with Oklahoman turns-of-phrase and accompanied by a well-told tale to illustrate his point. Those who had the good fortune to work with John at the U.S. Attorney’s Office loved him dearly and remember many hours spent in his corner office listening to John—always dressed in his Brooks Brothers suit, red repp tie and boots—dispense his counsel, stories, and humor. It was simply good to be in John’s presence. His gentle manner, open heart and open mind made him easily approachable and thus a mentor to many lawyers, young and not so young. His advice was invariably correct even if the recipient was slow to accept it or had to learn the hard way. The profession surely benefits broadly from the wisdom he imparted to so many.
When he wasn’t practicing law, John loved gardening, tennis, mischief, studying the law, playing with his dog, cowboy boots, and enjoying a Pearl beer on the patio in his lovely yard. He especially relished the time he spent with his dear friends at the Houston Racket Club, particularly his fellow “Freedom Seekers” and the “Lunch Bunch.” Most of all, John enjoyed his time at home and on the road with Juanita whom he adored, and he delighted in her unreserved love, attention, and constant care.
John is preceded in death by his parents, Armilda Ray Davis and James Daniel Smith and his brother, Alfred Smith. John is survived by his wife, Juanita Smith and his daughter, Adriana Smith who reside in Houston. He is also survived by his sister, Marianne Smith of Grapevine, Texas, and several nieces and nephews.
Juanita and her family wish to give special thanks to family and friends who supported John with their love, hard work and companionship, and especially to Mario Moreno who never wavered in his love and daily assistance to John and Juanita.
The memorial mass is to be celebrated at ten o’clock in the morning on Wednesday, the 30th of July, at St. Michael Catholic Church, 1801 Sage Road in Houston, where the Rev. Msgr. Frank H. Rossi, is to serve as celebrant.
In lieu of flowers and customary remembrances, the family kindly invites you to make memorial gifts in John’s memory to Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory of Houston, 6700 Mount Carmel Street, Houston, Texas 77087, ATTN: Bee Dickson, Director of Advancement. Cristo Rey is a school dedicated to providing a rigorous college preparatory education to low income students who earn 70% of the cost of their education by working at cooperating Houston businesses and non-profits.