Coney Island, Brooklyn, Wednesday March 17, 2010 - 35 students sat on the edge of their chair listening wide-eyed about dinner at Martin Luther King Junior’s house. “We were discussing whether or not we were headed to Jackson Mississippi the next morning, we decided to go”, said former New York State Court of Appeals Judge George Bundy Smith, at the “Success and Service: CAMBA Speaker Series”. The series, sponsored by CAMBA, one of Brooklyn’s largest nonprofits, has been established to introduce New York City students to leaders in all fields who not only have achieved success but also have continued to give back to their communities.
Smith addressed a total of 70 students at two of CAMBA's partner schools, The School for Democracy and Leadership, a middle/high school in Crown Heights, and Liberation Diploma Plus High School, in Coney Island.
Now a partner in the law firm of Chadbourne & Parke LLP, Smith talked about his life on the bench as he rose from a city judge to a member of the state's highest court. He also discussed his experiences as a Freedom Rider in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1961.
Smith grew up in Washington, D.C. and attended Phillips Academy, where he was the only African-American in the Class of 1955. He received a B.A. degree from Yale University in 1959 and an LL.B. from Yale Law School in 1962.
“We have to instill a love of learning and you should know that it’s ok to want to learn. You have to acquire the skills and keep moving along. Once you make it, you have to give back.”
In 1961, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin invited Smith, then a second-year law student, to go to Montgomery as a Freedom Rider. The Freedom Riders were called that because they rode integrated buses to challenge segregationist laws in the south. Smith and ten other Freedom Riders were arrested in the Montgomery bus station and convicted of breach of the peace; their convictions were later reversed by the United States Supreme Court.
Smith served as an Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, for 14 years, from 1992 until his retirement in September 2006. From 1987 until 1992, he was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, and, from 1980 to 1986, was a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. His judicial service began in May 1975 when he was named to the Civil Court of New York City.
Future scheduled speakers include two other established community leaders: Jeanine Ramirez, a reporter for the television station New York 1; and Malaak Compton-Rock, executive director of Angelrock, a nonprofit organization that promotes volunteerism, social responsibility, and sustainable change.
About Chadbourne & Parke LLP:
Chadbourne & Parke LLP, an international law firm headquartered in New York City, provides a full range of legal services, including mergers and acquisitions, securities, project finance, private funds, corporate finance, energy/renewable energy, communications and technology, commercial and products liability litigation, arbitration/IDR, securities litigation and regulatory enforcement, special investigations and litigation, intellectual property, antitrust, domestic and international tax, insurance and reinsurance, environmental, real estate, bankruptcy and financial restructuring, employment law and ERISA, trusts and estates and government contract matters. Major geographical areas of concentration include Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. The Firm has offices in New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Mexico City, London (an affiliated partnership), Moscow, St. Petersburg, Warsaw, Kyiv, Almaty, Dubai and Beijing. For additional information, visit www.chadbourne.com.