Judge Jimmy C. Smith, of Obion County, is the 2020 recipient of Leon Ruben Award of Excellence, which he accepted at the Fall 2021 General Sessions Judges Conference. The Leon Ruben Award for Excellence is presented annually to a judge or judges who distinguish themselves through their outstanding service to the community, the conference, and the judiciary as a whole.
“I came to the bench later in the practice of law,” said Judge Smith. “I don’t know what I expected when that happened because I never planned on being a judge, never really wanted to be a judge. I had a great law practice, great partnership, but the ascension to the bench has been one of the highlights of my life. It’s in no small measure due to relationships that have developed in this conference. I can’t tell you how much that means, especially when you go through the process of being president of this conference. Relationships are what it’s all about.”
Judge Smith is a Member and Former President of the Obion County Bar Association and the Tennessee General Sessions Judges Conference. He currently serves as a Judge of the 27th Judicial District Recovery Court and is a member of the Board of the Tennessee Association of Recovery Court Professionals. He is a Fellow of the Tennessee Bar Foundation and admitted as a member of the Bar before the United States Supreme Court.
“Judge Smith served as past president of the General Sessions Judges Conference, former member of the Executive Board, member of the education committee, procurer of speakers and instructors at conferences, and is paid up on all of his dues,” said Judge Tommy Moore, long-time friend and business partner of Judge Smith.
Judge Smith is also a Founder and Past President of the Obion County Habit for Humanity; Active Member of the Obion County Cancer Agency; Member of the Obion County Public Library Enrichment Foundation; Trustee, Board Member and Chairman of the Board of Crowley’s Ridge College in Paragould, Arkansas. He is a Former Chairman of the Board of the Hope Network Ministries in San Antonio, Texas; Former Member & Vice Chairman of the Obion County Board of Education; Member, Advisor, Founding Attorney and Advisor of the Obion County Emergency Communications Board (911); Founder of PANDA; Kiwanis Club Member; Member of the Community Club of Troy; one of the original Founders and Board members of PANDA (Prevent Alcohol and Drug Abuse) and Developer and Founder of GIFTS; Member of the Obion County Prevention Coalition and the Obion County Community Foundation; and a Member, Speaker and Former Shepherd (Elder) at Troy Church of Christ.
Of noteworthy significance is his relationship with former Congressman Ed Jones of West Tennessee, for whom he served over the years as a page, intern and staff member. Judge Smith credits Congressman Jones with teaching him two important lessons early in life, which remain with him to this day: (1) Service is the rent you pay for the space you occupy in life; and (2) It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, as long as you get the job done.
Judge Smith is a graduate of the University of Mississippi where he received the Taylor Medal, which is the University’s highest academic award. He subsequently received his Juris Doctor Degree from the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis (Memphis State University).
“Jimmy is the epitome of a servant leader, whose goals in life are selfless service to others, and for his life and position on the bench to make an impact and difference in the world,” Judge Moore said. “Jimmy Smith has a brilliant legal mind and a true judicial temperament. He’s graced with both an intellectual mind and common sense. Jimmy is an activist judge with his legal energies focused on justice, rehabilitation, equity, fairness and ethical judicial conduct. He’s a seeker of justice, a man of integrity and impartiality, a compassionate proponent of rehabilitation, a follower of the law to the letter and ethical about the requirements of Tennessee judicial candidates. He is a credit to our conference and a consummate TN judge.”
Judge Moore took a cue from the movie, Waking Ned Devine, where it is discussed that all nice things said about someone are said at their funeral. Not wanting to wait to tell his friend how he really feels about him, Judge Moore presented Judge Smith with the award and said, “I congratulate you on being a great man. And thank you for being my friend.”
After accepting his award, Judge Smith said, “Whatever your involvement is, don’t miss those relationships you get by coming to these conferences and being on committees, and just working with each other. It’s one of the highlights of my life, in general. I think the older I get, the more I’m convinced that it’s not really a matter of what you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished, it’s the people you’ve met along the way and the relationships you have with them. I’m blessed to have those relationships, none of which are any closer to me than Tommy Moore.”
Members of the Ruben family were in attendance for the award presentation.