ALAJ Salutes...

Johnnie Smith

When Johnnie Smith was a young girl, she dreamed of being a lawyer. As she likes to say, 15 years of marriage, two children, and three degrees did not stand in her way.

"I called my father and told him that Greg and I were going to get married and his initial comment was that if I was going to get married instead of coming back to Kentucky and going to law school that I would just have to give up on my dream of being a lawyer," Smith said. "Then I got pregnant on our honeymoon and he was then certain I would have to give up on my dream, but I didn't."

Smith had gotten her undergraduate degree from Morehead State University and had been accepted in law school when she came to visit relatives in Greenville. There she met Greg Smith and her life took a different turn.

She says the couple "sucked it up" worked full time, went to school, had two children, and, in 1995 she began practicing law. While she attended Jones Law School she worked full-time at the Montgomery firm of Taber, Dansby, Fazerkas and Martin, a job that she credits with launching her career. When the firm dissolved, she opened a solo practice so she could spend more time with her children, Jordan and Abby.

"I considered working for another firm but I knew being on my own would give me more flexibility," Smith said. "I love being a lawyer but I really love being a mother."

"I still work 80 hours a week, but its 80 hours a week on my own time," she said. "If I need to be at a pep rally I can."

Smith normally gets to her McDonough Street office that she shares with Jimmy Pool about 6:30 a.m.  Most of her day is spent working on domestic relations cases and on most days she can be found in a county courthouse protecting the rights of others.

"Someone asked Abby once what I did for a living and she told them I talked on the phone," Smith said laughingly. "That's because I generally have one stuck to my ear."

Smith is very active in the March of Dimes, the Alabama Civil Justice Foundation, Rep. John Knight's Foundation, the Montgomery County Democratic Club, the Montgomery County Trial Lawyers Association and the Alabama Association for Justice.

All of her civic activities are important to her, but her role in the March of Dimes is very personal. Her oldest daughter, Jordan, was born premature and Smith credits the help she received from the March of Dimes as literally a lifesaver.

"Jordan was early and she only weighed 4 1/2 pounds," Smith said. "This was pre-internet, I hadn't even considered a C-section, and I was 23 and scared to death."

"They were awesome. They were in my room the next day with materials and lots of information and told me what to expect, they provided support and resources that I could not have gotten any where else."

Smith currently serves as chairman of the local March of Dimes revenue committee and as the chairperson of the Citizen of the Year gala which last year raised more than $150,000.

Smith also has become the "go to" person for ALAJ on legislative issues and has spent much of her time at the Statehouse meeting with legislators and testifying before committees.

"Ginger tricked me," Smith said. "It started out about five years ago when I came to read bills, then it was two or three hours and now I just mark days off my calendar."

"It has been a real eye-opening experience and I have a great respect for the staff and what they have to do everyday to stand up for the rights of others and to protect the civil justice system,"
she said.

Smith became involved with the then-Alabama Trial Lawyers Association when she worked at the Tabor firm.

"They required all the employees at the firm to attend the summer seminars," she said. "We would close the firm and we would all go because they felt like it was important for us to meet other lawyers, to network and to understand what we were fighting for in the courtroom."

Smith, 38, has taken on a new project this fall. She has "adopted" the Tuskegee 8th and 9th grade YMCA football team.

"I raised the money and we went out and bought them all new uniforms, they were wearing hand-me-downs from Tuskegee -their helmets didn't fit and they didn't even have their own cleats," she said. "They look like the NFL now."

The team is a family affair. Smith's husband, Greg, and two neighbors coach, and the girls go to offer moral support.

Most everything in Smith's life is a family affair, along with her now fulfilled dream of being a lawyer. For all she does for so many, Smith is our "Champion of Justice."