“In no other profession do men know their colleagues more intimately and judge them more astutely. That Guy Smith should have reached the very summit of the organised profession is therefore the surest proof of his worth in the eyes of his brethren,” said the Chief Justice, Sir Richard Wild, at a special sitting of the Supreme Court at Wellington on 19 July 1974 to mark the death of Mr WG Smith, President of the New Zealand Law Society. Mr Smith, 53, who took office only on 29 March 1974, died in Germany of a heart attack while on a short world tour.
The Judges had watched with admiration the devotion of Mr Smith’s service and his steady rise in the profession, Sir Richard told the gathering, which included members of Mr Smith’s family. Practitioners from all over New Zealand were present but, because Wellington airport was closed, several people including some district law society presidents were prevented from attending.
Mr BL Stanley, a Vice-President of the New Zealand Law Society, delivered a tribute prepared by another Vice-President, Mr LH Southwick QC, himself stranded in Auckland.
Guy Smith would be remembered by members of the New Zealand Law Society for his great and unforgettable contributions during 12 years service on its Council and on several committees, said Mr Stanley. Mr Smith’s ability had been demonstrated in his management of the financial affairs of the Society as Treasurer from 1966 to 1973, and in his humble yet strong leadership from the time he was elected President Elect in 1973.
“Above all,” said Mr Stanley, “Guy Smith believed that lawyers must be concerned – and thus their Law Society should be seen to be concerned – with the rights of people irrespective of their individual cultural backgrounds, status and financial circumstances.”
Mr RD Richmond, president of the Wellington District Law Society, an office held by Mr Smith in 1963, observed that the late President had led without being dictatorial. He had not sought high places, but had attained them because of his ability and willingness to serve. He had sought the best for those he served and not personal gratification.
The Governor-General, Sir Denis Blundell, asked before the sitting of the Court that he and Lady Blundell be associated with tributes paid to Mr Smith.
At a memorial service held in Wellington on 18 July 1974, Mr Justice Beattie, one of the five judges in court the following day, also paid tribute.
Mr Guy Smith, who became President of the New Zealand Law Society on 29 March 1974, had been a partner in the Wellington firm of Buddle, Anderson, Kent and Co since 1948.
He graduated after the 1939-45 war after four years overseas as a RNZVR lieutenant. At Victoria University, he was secretary of the university students association and a rugby and cricket blue. He was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 1947.
Mr Smith was president of the Wellington District Law Society in 1963. He first became a member of the Council of the New Zealand Law Society in 1962 and was appointed to its Standing Committee. In 1966 he was elected Honorary Treasurer and remained in that office until he became President Elect in the 1973 Annual Meeting of Council.
Mr Smith was a member of the Company Law Advisory Committee, the Courts Martial Appeal Court, the McKenzie Education Foundation, the Sutherland Self Help Trust Board, and the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation Council.
Mr Smith’s wife, Maire Jean, is a registered medical practitioner. They have six children.
These tributes were published in LawTalk 1, 23 April 1974 and LawTalk 2, 26 July 1974.