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Otis M. Smith

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Otis M. Smith
214th Regent of the University of Michigan
In office
March 7, 1967 – 1970
Preceded byAllan R. Sorenson
78th Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court
In office
1961 – December 31, 1966
Appointed byJohn Swainson
Preceded byTalbot Smith
Succeeded byThomas E. Brennan
36th Michigan Auditor General
In office
October 21, 1959 – October 9, 1961
GovernorG. Mennen Williams
John Swainson
Preceded byWilliam R. Hart (acting)
Succeeded byWilliam A. Burgett (acting)
Personal details
Otis Milton Smith

(1922-02-20)February 20, 1922
Memphis, Tennessee
DiedJune 29, 1994(1994-06-29) (aged 72)

Otis Milton Smith (February 20, 1922 – June 29, 1994) was the first African American justice on the Michigan Supreme Court and the General Counsel for General Motors.[1]

Smith graduated from law school at The Catholic University of America in 1950, where he was a member of the first volume of the school's Law Review.[2]

He then went to Flint, Michigan, where he engaged in private practice until 1957. At that time he was appointed to the Michigan Public Service Commission.[3] His reputation for fighting graft there earned him a nickname: "the man who shot Santa Claus."[4]

From 1959 until 1961 Smith served as Michigan Auditor General.

He was appointed a justice of the Michigan Supreme Court in 1961 by Governor John Swainson[5] He retained his seat in the 1962 election[6] but lost re-election in 1966, and was then hired by General Motors. He would rise to become vice-president and General Counsel. In 1968, Smith served as a presidential elector. In 1983, his portrait was dedicated at the Michigan Supreme Court.[7] A portrait also hangs in the admissions of The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.[8]

A scholarship in his name is administered by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. It is given to a single mother, and can be used for tuition at Wayne State University, any campus of the University of Michigan, or the law school at The Catholic University of America.[9]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The Political Graveyard: Smith, Otis Milton
  2. ^ He was the co-author of Illegal Delay and Confessions in State and Federal Courts - A Civilized Standard, 1 Cath. U. L. Rev. 1 (1950). The Catholic University Law Review gives an annual award in his honor to a staff member for excellence in contributing to the Law Review.
  3. ^ "MPSC - Past Commission Membership". Archived from the original on 2007-11-11. Retrieved 2008-03-09.
  4. ^ "Man who accounts for Michigan's millions: Auditor-general Otis M. Smith is first Negro elected to state-wide post since Reconstruction". Ebony. 1961. pp. 75–80. Retrieved December 22, 2021. Smith's work as chairman of the state Public Service Commission earned him state-wide support...[He] did such a thorough job of setting fair utility rates and eliminating possible graft that he was known on Michigan's Capitol Hill as 'the man who shot Santa Claus.'
  5. ^ "Otis Smith". Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  6. ^ Stetson, Damon (8 November 1962). "Romney Victory Held Personal As Running-Mates Are Beaten". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  7. ^ "Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society". Archived from the original on 2007-10-06. Retrieved 2008-03-09.
  8. ^ "Columbus School of Law".
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-08-19. Retrieved 2008-03-09.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
Party political offices
Preceded by
Frank S. Szymanski
Democratic nominee for Michigan Auditor General
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Michigan Auditor General
Succeeded by