Born in Sumter, and reared in Columbia, the Honorable Willie T. Smith was at the forefront of the civil rights movement in South Carolina. He served on the NAACP legal team that included Harvey Gantt's integration of Clemson College (University).
He served as cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He worked with the Whittenburg v. School District of Greenville County which desegregated public schools in the county. He represented James Peterson in the lunch counter sit-in case that ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court and ended segregation of lunch counters in America.