Charles Z. Smith

Charles Z. Smith, the first African American justice of the Washington State Supreme Court, will visit Whitman College to participate in a moderated discussion that is open to the public.

Smith will  join Noah Leavitt, visiting assistant professor of sociology and general studies, in a  discussion on topics drawn from suggested submitted by students. The event takes place Thursday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. in Olin Hall Room 130. 

In his nearly 55 years of distinguished public service, Smith has accumulated  an extensive list of groundbreaking accomplishments. His landmark career as an African American in law includes service as the Seattle Municipal Court judge, King County Superior Court judge and justice on the Washington State Supreme Court, earning the Washington State Bar Association Lifetime Service Award in the process.  In 2002 he retired from the Supreme Court after 14 years, over the course of which he was praised for his “mediator-conciliator type of personality.” 

Over the years Smith served a variety of roles.  Among them: law school professor and dean, television and radio commentator, human rights activist, champion of minorities and women in the legal system, big brother to youth at risk, national church leader, international voice for tolerance, patron of the arts, and military officer.

In 2005, Justice Smith delivered the keynote speech for the installation of his esteemed friend, Whitman President George S. Bridges.  The two were colleagues in their days at the University of Washington.

This event is sponsored by the Whitman College Intercultural Center, the Black Student Union, Club Latino and the Office of the President. It is a part of an ongoing celebration of Black History Month. 

For more information, contact Mukulu Mweu at (509) 522-4410 or e-mail her at

–Troy Cameron ’14