Former State Supreme Court Justice Charles Z. Smith dies at 89

Justice Charles Z. Smith died at the age of 89 on Aug. 28, 2016. (Photo: WA Secretary of State website)

SEATTLE - Former State Supreme Court Justice Charles Z. Smith has died.

According to family members, Justice Smith passed away Sunday at his home in Seattle at the age of 89.

He was the state's first and only African-American Supreme Court Justice and was a long-time civil rights activist.

Gov. Jay Inslee praised Smith in a statment:

“From breaking our state Supreme Court’s color barrier to bolstering the public’s trust while prosecuting corruption, Justice Smith demonstrated his commitment to justice throughout his career.

“Trudi and I want to send our deepest condolences to Justice Smith’s family and friends, and the countless individuals he inspired with his illustrious pursuit of the law.”

Seattle councilwoman Lorena Gonzalez tweeted on Monday night: "Brilliant Jurist & an early legal mentor of mine."

Justice Smith graduated from the University of Washington Law School in 1955 and was hired as the first minority to clerk for a state Supreme Court Justice.

In 1965 he became the first African-American to serve as a Seattle Municipal Court judge. A year later he was selected to serve on the King County Superior Court.

In 1973, Justice Smith joined the faculty of the University of Washington Law School as a professor and associate dean. He was also a frequent contributor to KOMO News and KOMO Radio.

Justice Smith was selected to the State Supreme Court in 1988 by then Governor Booth Gardner.

He served 14 years on the state's high court before retiring in 2002.

Funeral arrangements are still pending.

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