HUGH J. SMITH. - The value of concentration of effort has been significantly shown in the career of this honored legist and jurist of Wyandotte county, for he has gained his prestige as able member of the Kansas bar through his own application, while the popular verdict placed upon him as a man and a representative member of his profession is indicated by his incumbency of his present office, that of judge of the court of common pleas of his home county. He resided at Argentine, this county, until his election to his present office, when he transferred his home to Kansas City, the judicial center of the county, and prior to his elevation to the bench he had built up a large and important practice, involving association with many prominent litigations in both state and federal courts in this section of the Sunflower commonwealth. The noteworthy achievements of Judge Smith are the more gratifying to contemplate on the score that he has been in the most emphatic sense the artificer of his own fortunes, and, formulating definite plans, he has steadily pressed forward toward the accomplishment of desired ends, the while his course has been ever directed along the lines of the most insistent personal integrity and honor.
Hugh Jason Smith was born in the little city of Lincoln, Logan county, Illinois, on the 23d of August, 1865, and is a son of Dennison and Mary Eliza (Collins) Smith, the former of whom was born in Jamestown, Chautauqua county, New York, and the latter of whom was born in Logan county, Illinois, where her parents settled in the pioneer days and whence they later removed to Iowa, where was solemnized her marriage to Dennison Smith. The father of Judge Smith continued to reside in Logan county, Illinois, until 1882, when he removed with his family to Harrison county, Missouri, where he purchased a farm and where he continued to be identified with the great basic industry of agriculture during the remainder of his active career.
To the public schools of Lincoln, Illinois, is Judge Smith indebted for his early educational[sic] training, and he was seventeen years of age at the time of the family removal to Missouri, where he contributed his quota to the work of the home farm and also continued his studies in the district schools. In the spring of 1887 he proved himself eligible for pedagogic honors, and he was a successful teacher in a district school in his home county during the winter term of 1887-8. In the following spring he came to Kansas and located in the thriving little city of Argentine, Wyandotte county, where he found employment at the carpenter trade and where he taught in the Stanley school during the fall of that year. In the spring of 1889 he secured the contract of the erection of the city hall in Argentine, and after successfully carrying through this work he there engaged in the real-estate, insurance and collecting business. In the meanwhile he has taken a course in the Spalding Commercial College, in Kansas City, Missouri, and he was graduated in this institution as a member of the class of 1888. While engaged in business as noted he also began the reading of law under effective private preceptorship, and he made rapid progress in his assimilation of the science of jurisprudence, with the result that he secured admission to the bar in 1893. These brief statements bear evidence of the ambition and determination of Judge Smith and also indicate his fertility in expedients. He has never been afraid of hard work, and close application figures as the medium through which he has developed his talents and gained a position of prominence in his chosen profession.
After his admission to the bar Judge Smith engaged in the practice of his profession at Argentine, and to one who had previously shown such definite energy and determination in the surmounting of obstacles, success was virtually a foregone conclusion. He proved his powers as an advocate and counselor and soon, gained a satisfactory practice. In 1897 he was appointed city attorney of Argentine and he continued incumbent of this office, by appointment and election, the latter in accordance with the new laws governing such preferments, for the long period of eleven years. In the election of November, 1908, there came distinctive popular recognition of the ability and character of Judge Smith in that he was elected to the bench of the court of common pleas of Wyandotte county for a term of four years, beginning January 11, 1909. His administration on the bench has been marked by characteristic industry and scrupulous discrimination, the while his decisions have been so carefully based on points of evidence, precedents and the principles of equity and justice that few have met with reversal in the higher tribunals.
Upon his election to his present judicial office Judge Smith removed to Kansas City, the county seat, and here he has exemplified the same civic loyalty and progressiveness that have previously marked his attitude. In politics he is a stanch and effective exponent of the generic principles and policies for which the Democratic party stands sponsor. In the time-honored Masonic fraternity he has completed the circle of the York Rite, in which he is affiliated with the lodge, chapter and council bodies in his home city, where his maximum membership is in Ivanhoe Commandery, No. 21, Knights Templars. Here also he is identified with the adjunct organization, Ararat Temple, Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, and further fraternal relations are maintained with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Order of Moose, the Modern Woodmen of America, the Royal Neighbors, and the Eastern Star chapter of the Masonic order.
In the year 1891 Judge Smith was united in marriage to Miss Minerva Wight, of Ridgeway, Harrison county, Missouri, and they have two daughters, - Bertha and Mary, both of whom remain at the parental home.
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