November 19, 2017

Trustees chairman shares journey from street crime victim to judgeship

Gordon Trustees Chairman Judge Herman Smith telling students about his upbringing and career at a spring 2016 campus event.

By Taylor Bradford

Contributor

While delivering telegrams for Western Union, 16-year-old Herman Smith was cornered by a gold painted car, grabbed off of this bike and cut in the neck with a knife.

After recovering at the hospital from what could have been a fatal wound, Smith and his father took their case to court. They were able to identify the owner of the gold painted car, however, their case was dismissed because Smith was not able to identify the man who cut him. Where was the justice that the law was supposed to uphold?

His father could see the anger and hatred on his son’s face. He told Smith that he was going to have to forgive the man who wronged him. Not because the man was innocent, but because Christ tells us to forgive others.

“It took years but I did take my father’s advice,” said Smith.

Gordon Trustees Chairman Judge Herman Smith telling students about his upbringing and career at a spring 2016 campus event.
Gordon Trustees Chairman Judge Herman Smith telling students about his upbringing and career at a spring 2016 campus event.

Years later, Smith would go on to be known as Judge Herman J. Smith Jr., the associate justice of the Superior Court.

On Apr. 18th in the Barrington Center for the Arts, Smith stood in front of Gordon’s faculty and students to explain how he lived out his faith as a victim, a lawyer and a judge.

Smith’s journey as a Christian in law was difficult. He was constantly trying to find if it was possible to live out his faith in his work.

Experiencing the preaching of Billy Graham in 1964, Smith was sure that his vocation was preaching. He left for Gordon College with every intention of becoming a preacher. However, God had different plans for him. He went to Boston University Law school where he quickly realized that not everyone who goes to law school is just there to practice law.

Smith would go on to practice law in the U.S. Court of Appeals and before the U.S. Supreme Court. He held the position of judge 21 years.

During his time as a judge, Smith saw evil, injustice, hardened people and the need for mercy.

“They [the accused] never experience anything like mercy. I wonder how hard they would be if they had a taste of mercy?” said Smith.

While Smith admits that forgiveness has no place in the law, he has found that his faith has been a tool in showing mercy and love to those who are often not shown any.

He believes that Christians need to be in the law. “We [Christians] are the best people for providing that [forgiveness]” he said. “We understand mercy and we understand justice.”

Smith’s vision for Gordon is to be a place where students can integrate their faith into their work.

Smith said, “Faith and life, faith and practice. That we are called to be Christians everywhere. If we fail, we fail. I’ve failed a number of times. But God is good and he will use those failures to strengthen us.”

Smith is currently the chairman of Gordon College’s Board of Trustees and is a moderator at Park Street Church in Boston.

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