CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Retired Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Robert K. Smith, who served 24 years on the bench, has died. He was 88 years old.
Smith, who was first elected to office in 1962 as a domestic relations judge, retired from public service in December 1986. Domestic relations judges used to handle civil cases dealing with family and marital matters.
At the time of his retirement, there was statewide controversy over a new policy allowing judges to use their service on the bench to count toward pension benefits. Smith made headlines at the time for refusing to claim his years as a judge toward his retirement.
"I don't need it," he told the Daily Mail at the time. "I'm the most senior judge here (in Kanawha County) and I've served more time on the bench than any other circuit judge now in office."
He was reelected in 1964 after running unopposed. In 1972, he was reelected to another eight-year term. Under the judicial reform amendment of 1974, four years were added to his eight-year term.
He ran for reelection for the last time in 1984. It was the first time he had actively campaigned for office in 20 years, and he called it "a tough election."
He also was a World War II veteran, flying 40 bombing missions as a radio mangunner on a B-24 bomber in the Chinese Theater. On 36 occasions, he flew over "The Hump," the name given to Mount Everest and the Himalaya Mountains.
"I'm not interested in World War II because I was in that and I want to forget it," he said at the time of his retirement.
Smith died at Charleston Area Medical Center's General Hospital Thursday. He was a resident of Edgewood Summit.
Funeral details have not yet been finalized. Wilson Funeral Home in Charleston is handling arrangements.