William French Smith

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This article is about the Attorney General of the United States. For other people with the same name, see William Smith (disambiguation).
William French Smith
74th United States Attorney General
In office
January 23, 1981 – February 25, 1985
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Benjamin R. Civiletti
Succeeded by Edwin Meese
Personal details
Born William French Smith
(1917-08-26)August 26, 1917
Wilton, New Hampshire, United States
Died October 29, 1990(1990-10-29) (aged 73)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California, United States
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Jean Webb Smith
Children William French Smith, III
Scott Cameron Smith
Gregory Hale Smith
Stephanie Oakes Lorenzen
Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles (BA)
Harvard Law School (J.D.)
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1942–1946
Rank Lieutenant
Unit Reserves

William French Smith (August 26, 1917 – October 29, 1990) was an American lawyer. He was the 74th United States Attorney General.


Smith was born in Wilton, New Hampshire on August 26, 1917. He received his B.A. degree in economics, summa cum laude, from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1939, and his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1942.

From 1942 to 1946, Smith served in the United States Naval Reserve, reaching the rank of lieutenant. In 1946 he joined the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Los Angeles, where he was a senior partner when in 1980 he was nominated Attorney General by then President-Elect Ronald Reagan. Smith was a member of the American Law Institute, American Judicature Society, and the Institute of Judicial Administration's Board of Fellows, as well as a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He served as Attorney General from 1981 to 1985 and then joined the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

He served as the member of the U.S. Advisory Commission on International, Educational and Cultural Affairs in Washington, D.C. from 1971 to 1978; a member of the board of directors of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council since 1970 and its president since 1975; a member of the Los Angeles Committee on Foreign Relations from 1954 to 1974; and a member of the Harvard University's School of Government since 1971.

He also served as a member of the advisory board of the Center for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown University, since 1978 and was a member of the Stanton Panel on International Information, Education and Cultural Relations in Washington from 1974 until 1975.

His business affiliations included service as a director of the Pacific Lighting Corp. of Los Angeles from 1967 to 1981 and the Pacific Lighting Corp. of San Francisco from 1969 to 1981, a seat on the board of directors of Jorgensen Steel Company from 1974 to 1981, and a seat on the board of directors of Pullman, Inc. of Chicago from 1979 to 1980.

He was the member of a California delegation to the Republican National Convention in 1968, 1972, and 1976, he was serving as the chairman of the delegation in 1968 and the vice chairman of the delegation in 1972 and 1976.

He served as the Attorney General under President Reagan's cabinet from 1981 until 1985.

Smith died in Los Angeles, California on October 29, 1990, at the age of 73, from cancer. He was interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Possible Perot running mate[edit]

In 1992, independent presidential candidate Ross Perot considered naming Smith, "who'd been dead for a couple of years," as his vice presidential running mate, according to Perot's campaign manager Ed Rollins.[1]


  1. ^ Singleton, Don (1996-08-18) An Insider Speaks Out, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Further reading[edit]

  • Smith, William French, Law and Justice in the Reagan Administration: The Memoirs of an Attorney General, 1991. ISBN 0-8179-9172-7

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Benjamin R. Civiletti
U.S. Attorney General
Served under: Ronald Reagan

Succeeded by
Edwin Meese