Known as “Red Dog,” the U.S. Navy veteran and long-time teacher of the law was 84 years old.
Ronald Charles Smith, Professor Emeritus at The John Marshall Law School, died at about 2:30 a.m. on October 19, 2018, at St. Benedict’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Niles, IL, where he had lived for several months while undergoing treatment. He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Mary Ann Scherer Smith; his sons, Michael (Liv Rainey) Smith and Matthew (Carolyn Chandler) Smith; his goddaughter, Margaret Thompson Blumberg, and his cousins Philip, Jonathan and Mark Thompson.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, December 16, 2018, between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. at Loyola University’s Piper Hall, 970 West Sheridan Road, in Chicago. Free parking is available at the Loyola lot at Sheridan and Winthrop.
The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to The Ronald C. Smith Scholarship Fund at the Rickover Naval Academy High School, 5900 North Glenwood, Chicago, IL, 60660. Please make checks payable to Friends of Rickover/Smith Scholarship. Or donations can be made on-line at www.friendsofrickover.org. As Ron was a devoted U.S. Navy veteran and a strong supporter of the education, this would be a most fitting memorial.
Ron Smith was born in Chicago on December 9, 1933, and grew up mostly in the Chicago area. He graduated from Fenwick High School in Oak Park in 1951, and received a B.S. in Humanities from Loyola University in 1955. In college, he earned several honors and participated in many activities, most notably debate and the student newspaper. After teaching speech at Loyola for a year, he joined the U.S. Navy in 1956 as a naval helicopter pilot and personnel officer. In 1962, he left active duty to enter law school but remained a Naval reservist until retiring as a Lieutenant-Commander in 1977. (While in the Navy, Ron, a “seadog” with bright red hair, acquired the nickname “Red dog,” which he had the rest of his life.)
Ron attended Loyola (Chicago) University Law School from 1962 to 1965, writing for the law review and taking part in law school activities. After graduation, he clerked for Justice John V. McCormick of the Illinois Appellate Court in 1965-1966. During that year, a law school friend, Janice Metros Johnston, said that her husband Gil was running the legal writing program at The John Marshall Law School and suggested Ron apply to be an adjunct. That post began his long association with John Marshall.
After the clerkship in 1966, Ron was a legal counsel for the Santa Fe Railroad, where he learned about governmental regulation and administrative procedure. In 1968 Dean Noble W. Lee asked him to come to JMLS. Ron taught many different courses but eventually specialized in constitutional law and criminal law.
In 1968, when Illinoisans voted to hold a constitutional convention, Ron decided to run with Elmer Gertz, a lawyer who lived in Ravenswood and Albany Park area near Ron, to be delegates to the convention. Elmer, a noted civil rights lawyer, and Ron ran as a team against two “machine” candidates backed by the regular organization of the Cook County Democratic Party. When the convention met on December 8, 1969, Ron and Elmer took their seats as members of the convention allied to the “independent bloc” of about ten delegates. Ron was a member of the Committee on the Executive, where he sponsored the amendatory veto provision.
In 1972 Ron ran for the Democratic nomination for the Illinois State Senate. The party regulars conspired to deprive him of the seat by running a candidate who would win, but then resign the nomination in favor of a replacement chosen by the party. Ron’s lawsuit, Smith v. Cherry, 489 F.2d 1098 (1974), was a notable federal elections lawsuit until legislation changed the situation. Unwilling to leave government life, he served as a member of Governor Walker’s Ethics Board, among other appointed positions, while continuing to teach at John Marshall until 2014.
Ron continued to specialize in criminal law. In the 1970’s he served as an assistant state’s attorney during the summer, prosecuting cases for the Cook County State’s Attorney. Later he defended indigent accused, often those who were not knowledgeable in English or the American legal system. His work with the criminal justice sections of bar associations culminated in his election to the chairmanship of the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section in the fateful year of 2001. During that year he was often the voice of the A.B.A. on anti-terrorism activities and international criminal justice.
In 1991 Ron founded the National Criminal Justice Trial Advocacy Competition, co-sponsored by The John Marshall Law School and The American Bar Association and held at the law school. Teams from all over the United States and other countries have participated in this award-winning and path-breaking exercise in training future prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Since his retirement, Ron took part in several law-related activities. He will be remembered as someone devoted to making Illinois a better place to live, to securing justice for everyone, and to preparing law students to enter the noble profession that he loved.
In pace requiescat, Red Dog. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.
Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Loyola University’s Piper Hall
970 West Sheridan Road
© copyright 2018 Chicago Tribune
Read the tribute to Prof. Smith from the John Marshall Law School.