John D. Smith has always enjoyed the fine art of debate. As a boy, he would readily engage the nuns at school or his grandmother at the dinner table over such issues as the theology of limbo or the importance of one life versus another.
“I would argue with the nuns to the point where they’d call my father. On one occasion in the eighth grade, Principle Sister Virgine Marie began a morality discussion over whether Truman should have dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. Her position was that it was one of the most immoral acts in all of history.
“To which I said, ‘What about the Americans who would have died?’ Sister Virgine Marie said, ‘Well, you’re certainly wrong if you think a Japanese life is less important than an American life.’ And I said, ‘Tell that to your brother if you’re a U.S. soldier on your way to Japan during the final days of the war.’
“After that, she called my father. He didn’t discipline me, though. He just said that she had called and not to worry about it.”
John’s father was his hero. No hesitation there. He was always involved in the community – president of the chamber of commerce, chairman of the Butler County Democratic Party, always one thing or another. One memory in particular stands out for John:
“Neatest thing he ever did was when he was chairman of the human relations council of Middletown, which existed to bring the black and white communities together. There was an African-American guy, Eudell Hightower, who wanted to move his family to the east side, to where we lived. This was in the ’60s, at the height of all the race problems. There was a big stink, even in our church about Mister Hightower moving to our neighborhood. Dad helped him get the house and made sure he got settled in. A lot of people shunned him for that. It hurt his business, but he didn’t back down. He was also the hardest working man I ever met. Yeah, I’d have to say Dad was always my hero.”
John was the only boy of the seven Smith kids. He was, he says, spoiled rotten. He remembers remarking as a child to his grandmother that he was obviously favored over his sisters. He wondered why that was. “She told me I was the one who would carry on the family name. Of course, I was thinking, ‘Yeah, but the family name is Smith.’”
The boys in John’s neighborhood were two, three and four years older than him, and he was small for his age. The neighborhood basketball court was in his driveway. He says the bigger kids didn’t cut him any slack under the boards. He learned to take an elbow on that court, and he learned to throw one, too.
John is a natural born storyteller. The first time you meet him, you get the feeling you’ve known him for a good long time. Every morning on the way to his office in Springboro, John stops at the Bluebird Bakery in Glendale for a cup of coffee. There’s always a cast of characters involved in some kind of debate. John jumps in, gives his 15 minutes, then heads on his way. It’s like his morning calisthenics. He lives in Cincinnati, by the way, with his wife, Beth. They have two sons and a daughter.
John is a trial attorney with a general practice. In his view, a trial attorney’s sole purpose is to get the case to the courtroom. “The courtroom is where justice takes place,” John says.
He loves his work because he loves the feeling he gets from helping the people who come to him. This is what he tells his clients:
“If I am doing my job, you will know everything I know about the law and how it applies to this specific issue in your life. Because at the end of the day, you’ll have to make a decision, and that decision will affect your life more than it will affect me.”
“That’s better than having a client say, ‘You tell me what to do.’ The thing is, I don’t walk in your shoes forward. You do. So the more you know, the better equipped you are to make your decision. You’ll own the decision, and you’ll be better able to live with it.”
“I’ve always thought it’s one thing to take care of a client with an immediate need in the here and now. But if you give them a bit of education, they’ll be better able to take care of themselves down the road.”
Areas of Practice
- Personal Injury -- Defense
- Personal Injury -- Plaintiff
- Estate Planning
- Family Law
- Real Estate Law
- Criminal Law
- Ohio, 1980
- University of Dayton School of Law, Dayton, Ohio
- University of Notre Dame
- Fenwick High School, Middletown, Ohio
Professional Associations and Memberships
- Cincinnati Bar Association
- Dayton Bar Association
- Warren County Bar Association
- American College of Trial Lawyers
- American Board of Trial Advocates