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Estate of late former Kanawha judge funds law scholarship

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A scholarship in honor of a late former Kanawha County judge has been created to allow a West Virginia student to attend law school at Washington and Lee University.

The $860,000 gift from the estate of Robert Kent Smith, who served as a circuit court judge for 24 years, will fund a scholarship to be awarded annually, according to Pete Jetton, spokesman for the law school.

Smith, who earned his law degree from Washington and Lee in 1948, served as a circuit court judge until he retired in 1986. He continued to serve as a mediator and senior-status judge after retiring. He died last year.

"My uncle had three great loves in his life: his wife, his daughter and his law school," Nancy Brown, Smith's niece, said in a news release from the school. "I believe it was W&L that made my uncle the man he was to be the rest of his life. He recognized this himself, and this is why W&L always meant so much to him."

"Judge Smith, my late uncle, was known as a compassionate and fair judge, and through his gift to Washington and Lee University Law School, he will enable deserving students an opportunity to benefit from the wonderful legal education he received there," said Margaret William Kherlopian.

Earlier this year, a $1.5 million donation from the estate of the late judge was given to help create a new health science simulation lab at the University of Charleston. The lab features realistic, computer-operated simulation manikins, which will help students practice actual medical techniques to see how the patients respond.

Smith was a World War II veteran. Before becoming a judge in 1974, he shared a private law practice with John Charnock Jr., Cyrus Hall and John Charnock Sr.

The Washington and Lee scholarship will be merit- and need-based, according to Jetton.

"Almost every student is looking for aid at the law school ... a lot of [scholarships] are merit-based and only consider how well you do in school, but this will consider financial needs, and an additional preference is for it to go to a student from West Virginia," Jetton said.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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