George Bundy Smith
George Bundy Smith (NYLJ/Rick Kopstein)

George Bundy Smith, for 14 years a judge on New York’s high court and its third African-American member, has died. He was 80.

Read the full obituary of Judge Smith.

Smith, born in New Orleans and raised in Washington, D.C., made a 31-year career in the New York judiciary, serving on the Civil Court of New York City and on the Appellate Division, First Department. Gov. Mario Cuomo appointed him to a 14-year term on the Court of Appeals in 1992.

Even before his judicial career, however, Smith made a name for himself as a civil rights leader, including as a Freedom Rider. Since his 2006 judicial retirement, he practiced at Chadbourne & Park and JAMS, and taught at Fordham University School of Law.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement: “From his days as a freedom rider, to serving as a jurist on the state trial courts, to his tenure on the state’s highest court, where he wrote the decision outlawing the death penalty in this state, Judge Bundy Smith lived a life of distinction and public service.

“He was a giant who left a mark on New York, and we are all the better for it.”

“He leaves our nation a better place than he found it,” Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said in a statement. “We will miss him deeply.”

New York State Bar Association President Sharon Stern Gerstman called Smith “a pioneer in the efforts for greater diversity and inclusiveness in the legal profession.”

“His long and distinguished record of public and professional service serves as an inspiration to all members of the bar,” she said in a statement.