President Bellows Honors Extraordinary Contributions of Former ABA Head William Reece Smith Jr.
The American Bar Association mourns the passing of William Reece Smith Jr., who served as ABA president from 1980 to 1981. Reese’s advocacy for pro bono service and legal funding for the poor is legendary. We are grateful for his many extraordinary contributions to society and the organized bar.
One particularly notable accomplishment was his effective work to save funding for the Legal Services Corporation, which supports legal aid programs for the poor. In 1981, the White House and congressional leaders threatened to defund the Legal Services Corporation. To fight for the agency’s continued existence, Reece organized lawyers to petition their members of Congress in a March on Washington. The successful effort became the model for the annual ABA Day grassroots lobbying event on Capitol Hill, for which legal services funding is a top priority.
In addition to championing legal aid funding, Reece insisted throughout his career that America’s lawyers need to be fully engaged and active pro bono volunteers. His vision is responsible for the creation of what is now the ABA Center for Pro Bono, which reflects the association’s service as the nation’s leading organization supporting the growth of pro bono. He was the consummate model of attorney, advocate and community leader. He served as mentor to many of the superstars of the legal community.
We extend our deepest sympathy to Reece Smith’s family, friends and colleagues.