Judges

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Entries - Entry Category: Judges - Starting with S

Scott, Andrew Horatio

Andrew Horatio Scott was one of the first Superior Court judges of Arkansas Territory by virtue of appointment by President James Monroe. He was the first governmental official to report for duty at the village of Arkansas Post (Arkansas County) on July 4, 1819, and assisted in putting into operation the laws of the territory. He served as Circuit Court Judge for the first District and was the first County Judge of Pope County. The county of Scott, created in 1833, was named in his honor. Andrew Scott was born on August 6, 1789, to Andrew Scott, a Scottish emigrant weaver and Elizabeth Ferguson in Hanover, County, Virginia. In 1808, he arrived with his parents, two brothers, and three sisters …

Scott, Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus Scott was appointed to the Arkansas Supreme Court after the resignation of Williamson Simpson Oldham Sr. in 1848. He was elected to the position in 1850 and reelected in 1858. He served on the Arkansas Supreme Court until his death in 1859, the longest tenure of any justice in the antebellum period. Christopher C. Scott was born in Scottsburg, Virginia, on April 22, 1807. He was the son of General John Baytop Scott, who was a prominent lawyer and Revolutionary War soldier, and Martha “Patsy” Thompson, an accomplished daughter of a wealthy planter. John Baytop Scott was friends with many of the nation’s founding fathers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. He was a graduate of …

Seamster, Lee A.

Lee A. Seamster was a lawyer and politician from Benton County whose political strivings took him from leadership of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in the 1920s to a succession of municipal, county, legislative, and judicial offices and finally to chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Seamster’s political and ideological pilgrimage was typical of many young men who reached maturity during and after World War I. When Chief Justice Griffin Smith died in 1955, Governor Orval E. Faubus, whose own wide political wanderings were notable, appointed Seamster to serve the final twenty months of Smith’s term. Lee Seamster was born on September 14, 1888, in the Benton County community of Beaty, west of Bentonville (Benton County). He was one …

Sebastian, William King

William Sebastian represented Arkansas in the U.S. Senate from 1848 until 1861. Also a farmer, lawyer, and judge, Sebastian served his state until the Civil War ended his career. Sebastian County, formed on January 6, 1851, was named for him. William King Sebastian was born in Centerville, Tennessee, in 1812 to Samuel Sebastian and his wife. Records do not include the name of his mother or any siblings (he appears to be one of at least three children in the household in 1830.) or the exact date of his birth. Sebastian moved to Arkansas in 1835, living briefly in Monroe County before making his home in Helena (Phillips County). While in Tennessee, Sebastian attended Columbia College, graduating in 1834. He …

Selden, Joseph

Joseph Selden was one of the earliest judges of the Superior Court of the Arkansas Territory, the territory’s highest court. Selden was appointed by President James Monroe in 1820 to replace Robert Letcher, who left the territory abruptly after less than one year in office. Judge Selden served on the court until May 26, 1824, when he was killed in a duel with fellow jurist Judge Andrew H. Scott. Joseph Selden was born in Henrico County, Virginia, on May 7, 1787, to Colonel Miles Cary Selden and Elizabeth Armistead Selden. He was born on the family estate, Tree Hill, on the James River; he had eleven siblings. One of his younger brothers was William Selden, born in 1791, who became …

Sheffield, Ronald Lee

Ronald Lee Sheffield, a lawyer, was a state insurance regulator for many years and served for a year as a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Sheffield overcame many misfortunes to become the sixth African American to serve on the state’s highest court. Ron Sheffield was born on June 30, 1946, in Coshocton, Ohio, to Mildred Hattie Sheffield. He never learned who his father was. His mother had been married and divorced; her son Billy Richards, who was reared by a grandparent, became a Muslim and changed his name to Hakim Bey. After Sheffield was born, his mother married Lee Evans Taylor Jr., a laborer at a General Electric (GE) plant. She worked as a maid and occasionally at the …

Smith, Frank Grigsby

Having been elected to an eight-year term, Frank G. Smith took a seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court in October 1912 on the same day the court moved from Arkansas’s first state capitol building in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) into its new quarters in the new capitol at Woodlane Street and Fifth Street, now West Capitol Avenue. Thirty-seven years later, in 1949, Smith retired, having served longer at that point than any justice in Arkansas history. Frank Grigsby Smith was born on August 3, 1872, in Marion (Crittenden County) to John Franklin Smith and Martha J. Gidden Smith. His father was a rich planter who had been a colonel on the staff of General Nathan Bedford Forrest during the …

Smith, George Rose

George Rose Smith was a prominent twentieth-century lawyer and state Supreme Court justice. He remains the longest-serving Arkansas Supreme Court justice. George Rose Smith was born on July 26, 1911, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), one of five children of Hay Watson Smith, a minister who served as the pastor of Little Rock’s Second Presbyterian Church for almost forty years, and Jessie Rose Smith. He received his early education in the Little Rock schools before graduating first in his class from Little Rock High School in 1928. Following graduation, Smith went to Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He soon returned home, however, to attend the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). He graduated first in his …

Smith, Griffin Sr.

Griffin Smith Sr. was a newspaperman, businessman, and lawyer with a strong moralist strain that he brought to an eighteen-year career as chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. More than any other chief of the court in the history of the Arkansas legal system, Smith used its appellate jurisdiction and his personal command of the court’s influence to promote what he saw as moral and ethical perfection in his adopted state. His passions were writing and crusading, which he brought to years of newspaper work, a short business career, and finally to the Supreme Court, where he delivered elegant prose, if not the most precise legal formulations. Griffin Smith was born on July 13, 1885, in DeKalb County, Tennessee, …

Smith, Lavenski Roy

Lavenski Roy Smith, the son of a black county farm agent at Hope (Hempstead County), became a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court at age forty-one and became the second African American to serve on the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the second-highest level of courts in the country, as well as the first to serve as chief justice. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2003. Lavenski Smith was born on October 31, 1958, to Cayce B. Smith and Olee M. Smith at Hope. He began school in still racially segregated schools, but the city’s schools soon integrated under court orders. He graduated from Hope High School, the school from which future Arkansas governor …

Smith, William Jennings (Bill)

William Jennings (Bill) Smith was a lawyer and civic leader in Little Rock (Pulaski County) whose close association with five governors gave him great influence over the state’s public affairs for forty years, including the desegregation of Central High School and its aftermath. He served briefly as a justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court upon the resignation of Justice Minor W. Millwee in the fall of 1958. Smith became the managing partner of the law firm that he had joined in 1946 and developed it into the state’s largest law firm, known at that time as Mehaffy, Smith and Williams. In 2022, the firm, still the state’s largest, was Friday, Eldredge and Clark. Bill Smith was born on October 14, …

Stroud, John Fred, Jr.

John Fred Stroud Jr. spent most of his long career practicing law in Texarkana (Miller County) but also spent ten years on the appellate bench—nine on the Arkansas Court of Appeals and one as a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He led the effort in 2000 to reorganize and reform the state’s judicial system and also spearheaded efforts for two decades to conserve the state’s waters and stabilize its streams. He worked for, befriended, or advised a number of Arkansas’s most notable politicians and jurists of the era, including U.S. senators John L. McClellan and David H. Pryor, Governors Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker, federal judges Richard S. Arnold and Morris S. “Buzz” Arnold of the U.S. Eighth …