Longtime AG office lawyer Chet Smith Jr. dies in bicycle accident
En route to their friend’s beach house at Alligator Point for a weekend getaway, Patricia Smith dropped her husband, Chesterfield Smith Jr., with his bike about 32 miles away.
A longtime rider, he felt the cool breeze on Saturday and saw an opportunity to “do a few miles,” Patricia said.
It was 12:15 p.m. when she pulled away and walked alone towards Alligator Point, with him briefly in the rearview mirror.
She entered her friend’s house and while waiting inside for her husband, who passed by Chet, received a call from the Florida Highway Patrol.
They asked her to come back, but didn’t say why until she arrived.
It was then that she discovered that at 12:26 p.m., her husband was killed by an SUV which struck him “for unknown reasons” on Shadeville Road in Crawfordville, according to a statement from the Florida Highway Patrol. He was 69 years old.
Chesterfield Jr. is survived by his wife, two children, an 18 month old grandson and a granddaughter expected in November.
Chesterfield Smith Jr. (1952-2021): Read the funeral home’s obituary here.
“We miss him a lot,” said Taylor Smith, Chet’s daughter, in an interview. “He was one of a kind.”
Chet, born in Bartow, was the son of the late Chesterfield Smith, former president of the American Bar Association and prominent Florida lawyer, known as “America’s Lawyer”.
After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in Asian Studies, Chet met Patricia at a garage sale in 1980.
“It was sort of organized by a friend,” Patricia Smith said. “He had this ashtray, and even though I didn’t smoke, I bought it and we started dating.”
In 1987, he received his law degree from the University of Miami, according to his obituary.
After a few years working for the Florida attorney general’s office in Hollywood, Chet and his family moved to Tallahassee in 1994. He worked for the office until his death, under five attorneys general and seven governors.
“I am heartbroken by the sudden and tragic loss of our Assistant Deputy Attorney General Chesterfield Smith Jr.,” Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement. “Chet was a brilliant lawyer and, more importantly, a great human being.
“I am shocked, and our entire office is in mourning as we mourn a man who has meant so much to us personally and professionally.”
Smith had two passions outside of work
Outside the office, Chet had two loves: his family and the bike.
“He was honestly the greatest of fathers,” Taylor Smith said. “He could have worked in a private practice and made his job a living, but he wanted to be home with us.
“He wanted to go to my football games, train my brother to ride a bike and help us with our homework,” she added.
His brother, Chet Smith III, agreed, saying his father “was the kind of father who remembers the names of your friends.”
Young Chet, from the age of 13, competed in American Cycling Federation competitions for years and has fond memories of trips to the Southeast the whole family attended.
“It was the sport of his life and a lot of our family activities revolved around it,” said Chet III.
As part of the 1996 Summer Olympics, Chet carried the torch on his bike in the Blountstown and Bristol area.
“He was like the president,” said Patricia, of her husband whose bikes are now in the garage. “The people of those towns lined the streets just to see him with the torch.”
Chet’s mentorship didn’t stop with her children.
“He was someone who did everything right and was always there for junior riders who needed advice,” said Peter Butler, who has been riding with Chet and his son for more than two decades.
“He has been a real beacon for the local cycling community and a great encouragement for everyone. “
After two hip replacements and other injuries, Chet Jr., or “the bionic man” as his son called him, woke up at 5 a.m. many mornings for a bike ride.
The last ride the son shared with his father was after work on Tuesday, September 21. The two cycled together from Chet’s house in Killearn to the conservation community of Centerville and back again.
“I am really grateful for this,” his son said. “It’s a beautiful memory.”
Celebration of life
People can attend the Celebration of the Life of Chet Smith at 11 a.m. Saturday at The Space at Feather Oaks, 6500 Miccosukee Road.
Contact Christopher Cann at [email protected] and follow @ChrisCannFL on Twitter.
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