William Nathan Harrell Smith

6th NC Supreme Court Chief Justice

Date Born: September 24, 1812

Date Died: November 14, 1889

       
       
       
Place Born: Murfreesboro, NC

Place Buried: Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh, NC

 

Chief Justice 1878-1889
 

William Nathan Harrell Smith was born on September 24, 1812 in Murfreesborough, NC, the son of Dr. William Lay Smith and Ann (Harrell) Smith. After an initial education at the Hertford Academy in Murfreesborough, Smith, with the support of his father's relatives in New England, attended preparatory schools at Kingston, RI, and Colchester, CT. In 1830, he enrolled at Yale College, from where he graduated in 1834. In 1836, he was admitted to the NC bar.

After a brief stay in Texas, William Nathan Harrell Smith returned to Hertford County, and on January 14, 1839, he married Mary Olivia Wise; they had three sons, one who died young.

In 1840, William Nathan Harrell Smith was elected to represent Hertford County in the NC House of Commons of the:
- 63rd General Assembly that met from 1840 to 1841

In 1848, William Nathan Harrell Smith was elected to represent the 6th NC Senate District (Hertford County) in the NC Senate of the:
- 67th General Assembly that met from 1848 to 1849

In 1849, William Nathan Harrell Smith was elected as Solicitor for Hertford County, a position he retained until 1857.

In 1858, William Nathan Harrell Smith was again elected to represent Hertford County in the NC House of Commons of the:
- 72nd General Assembly that met from 1858 to 1859

In 1859, William Nathan Harrell Smith was elected to represent the 1st District of North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives of the:
- 36th U.S. Congress that met from 1859 to 1861

In July of 1861, William Nathan Harrell Smith was elected to represent North Carolina in the Confederate Provision Congress. In 1862, he was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives and served until 1865.

In 1865, William Nathan Harrell Smith was again elected to represent Hertford County in the NC House of Commons of the:
- 76th General Assembly that met from 1865 to 1866

In 1868, William Nathan Harrell Smith served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He left politics and opened a law practice in Norfolk, VA. From there he moved his family back to Raleigh in 1872.

In 1871, William Nathan Harrell served as counsel for Governor William Woods Holden in his impeachment trial; he argued impressively for the governor's acquittal.

In 1878, William Nathan Harrell Smith was elected as Chief Justice on the NC Supreme Court, replacing Chief Justice Richmond Mumford Pearson, who had died on January 5, 1878. He remained Chief Justice on the NC Supreme Court until his death.

On November 14, 1889, William Nathan Harrell Smith died, and he was buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC.


Appointed as Chief Justice by Governor Zebulon B. Vance on January 14, 1878. Elected as Chief Justice in the general elections in August 1878.
William Nathan Harrell Smith (1812 – 1889) was a United States Representative from North Carolina; born in Murfreesboro, North Carolina, September 24, 1812; attended the common schools in Murfreesboro, NC, Kingston, Rhode Island, and Colchester, Connecticut, and East Lyme, Connecticut; graduated from Yale College in 1834 and from Yale Law School in 1836; admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Murfreesboro, NC, in 1839; held several local offices; a member of the State House of Commons in 1840, 1858, 1865, and 1866; served in the State Senate in 1848; Solicitor of the First Judicial District of North Carolina for eight years; elected as an Opposition Party candidate to the Thirty-sixth Congress (March 4, 1859-March 3, 1861); unsuccessful candidate for Speaker, lacking one vote of election; served in the Confederate Congress 1862-1865; delegate to the Democratic National Convention at New York City in 1868; served as counsel for Governor William W. Holden in his 1871 impeachment trial; Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court 1878-1889; died in Raleigh, North Carolina, November 14, 1889; interment in Historic Oakwood Cemetery.
William Nathan Harrell Smith, sixth Chief Justice, was born in Murfreesboro in September of 1812. His father was a native of Connecticut, a graduate of Yale and a physician, who removed to North Carolina in 1802 and died in 1813. Smith graduated at Yale in 1834 and studied law in its law school. Among his college mates were Morrison R. Waite, later Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, W.M. Evarts, since Secretary of State, Samuel J. Tilden and Edward Pierrepont, Ministers to England.

Smith obtained a license to practice law in North Carolina, but soon removed to Texas. After a stay of six months he returned and served in both Houses of the General Assembly, by which, in 1848, he was elected Solicitor and served eight years.

He was elected to Congress in 1858 and, although it was his first term, came within one vote of being elected Speaker.

He served in the Confederate Congress the four years of the War.

In 1870, he removed to Norfolk, VA to practice law, but in 1872 he removed to Raleigh.

Upon the death of Chief Justice Richmond M. Pearson he was appointed as Chief Justice in January of 1878 by Governor Zebulon B. Vance, then elected by the people.

He died in November of 1889.


<< Previous Chief Justice - Richmond M. Pearson

Next Chief Justice - Augustus S. Merrimon >>



© 2015 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved