Retired circuit court judge Mike Smith, 73, passes away

Published 5:10pm Thursday, January 2, 2014

Longtime Circuit Judge Drennen Michael “Mike” Smith, 73, of Summit, has died.

Mike Smith

Judge Smith, who retired in 2006, died on New Year’s Day at Franklin County Hospital in Meadville after a lengthy illness, according to a press release from the Administrative Office of Courts in Jackson Thursday afternoon.

Smith was born July 4, 1940, in Birmingham. He was the son of the late Drennen Raymond Smith and Katherine Szabo Smith. He was a graduate of Auburn University and the former Jackson School of Law, now Mississippi College School of Law.

He moved to McComb in 1971 to practice law. Smith later practiced with Wayne Dowdy and William Guy before opening his own office.

Smith served as county attorney for Pike County before being elected to the bench. During his 10 years as attorney for the board of supervisors, Smith helped entice a number of new industries to the county, including the Sanderson Farms poultry plant. He also helped achieve a new county jail.

“I never felt like I had a powerful position,” Smith said in a 1992 interview about his job as board attorney. “I felt like I had a position that would allow me to be of service. I know in my heart that some of the things I was helping them do was helping the quality of life in the county.”

He was first elected circuit judge of the Fourteenth Circuit District of Lincoln, Pike and Walthall counties in November 1994, and took office in January 1995. He retired from the bench June 30, 2006. He continued to hear cases as a senior status judge.

Attorney for the 14th judicial district Dee Bates said Judge Smith was unique.

“A lot of defendants called him Iron Mike,” Bates said. “A lot of times people like to sit back and criticize a judge’s decisions, but all you can ask for in a judge is that he do what he thinks is right, and Mike did that.”

Lincoln County Chancery Court Clerk Bishop Tillmon agreed.

“In my dealings he was always a good judge,” Bishop said. “He always knew where he stood, he did not have a problem exorcizing the full extent of the law if it was necessary.”

Bates remembers many court cases he defended in front of the judge when he served as public defender, a county prosecutor and then as district attorney.

“We covered so many cases in those years,” he said. “It was always something interesting with Judge Smith.

“One of his biggest sayings from the bench was, ‘Son, if you come back before me you’re going to be a lost ball in tall weeds.’ And another I remember is, ‘If you lie to me I’m going to put you in the hooskow.’ And, he would always look over his glasses if he was really interested in someone’s story – only the people who’ve seen that look can appreciate what I’m saying,” Bates fondly recalls.

In an article provided by the family, close friend Pike County Chancery Clerk Doug Touchstone said Smith was known as a strict, fair judge.

“Mike believed in a man having some punishment if people did a serious crime or did something that called for serving time,” Touchstone said. “He was a good judge and he was well respected, and I think people appreciate a judge that will deal some punishment on somebody that committed a crime that’s deserving of punishment.”

Judge Smith also often urged convicted offenders to attend church.

He was a member of First Baptist Church in Summit. He was a Mason and a Shriner.

The funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 3, at Hartman-Sharkey Funeral Home in McComb. Visitation is today from 10 a.m. until time of service. Burial will be in Union Church cemetery in Jefferson County.

Judge Smith’s survivors include his wife of 42 years, Lloyd Dean Osborne Smith of Summit; son, Matt; daughter Angela; his brother, Father Patrick Smith of Madison; and six grandchildren.

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