Former state Supreme Court Justice Charles Smith dies at 89

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Charles Z. Smith (Photo credit: Secretary of State's Office)

SEATTLE — Charles Z. Smith, Washington’s first black trial judge and state Supreme Court justice, has died at age 89.

In a statement Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee credited Smith’s “illustrious pursuit of the law,” saying that he demonstrated his commitment to justice as he prosecuted public corruption and broke the Supreme Court’s color barrier.

Our news partner The Seattle Times reported that Smith died Sunday in Seattle.

Born into a world of poverty and racism in Florida, he served in the Army Air Corps during World War II and was admitted to the University of Washington Law School without having to take the exam after an associate dean saw his college transcript.

He went on to work for more than 50 years as a lawyer and judge. He focused on social justice issues, including a long fight to win reparations for Japanese-Americans who were relocated and interned in camps during World War II.