Videos & Speeches

Mr. President, on November 16, Kansas lost one of its greatest citizens when Glee Smith, Jr., passed away at age 94. Today, I pay tribute to Glee and celebrate his life, his legacy, and his service to our state and nation.

Glee was born and raised in 1921 in Rozel – a rural central Kansas town with a population of 156. After high school, like so many members of our ‘‘greatest generation,’’ Glee served our Nation during World War II as a first lieutenant in the Army Air Corps.

After the war, he returned to further his education at the University of Kansas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1943 and a juris doctorate in 1947. During this time, Glee married Gerry Buhler, his wife of more than 70 years. 

Together, they moved southwest to Larned, where Glee partnered with Maurice Wildgen to found the Wildgen & Smith Law Firm. Within two years of establishing his law practice, Glee was elected to his first position of public service as Pawnee County attorney and later to the Larned Board of Education, on which he served for 12 years.

These two roles provided the bedrock for Glee’s work on behalf of Kansans and instilled a deep respect for the rule of law and commitment to education. He was a 67-year member of the Kansas Bar Association – 20 of which were spent as a member of the Board of Governors. In addition, President Gerald Ford appointed Glee to the First Board of Directors of the National Legal Services Corporation, which he served on from 1975 to 1979. He also served on the Kansas Board of Regents for eight years, including two as chairman. These are just a few of the many other causes that Glee took part in and often ended up leading. Many remember Glee’s leadership from his 16 years in the Kansas State Senate, during which he served as Judiciary Committee chairman, Ways and Means Committee chairman and president of the senate for his final eight years.

The comments left on Glee’s obituary in the Lawrence Journal-World do service to the impression that he left on those around him:

‘‘Glee was a great person and a true gentleman. He was a great person to work with in governmental affairs and socially as well.’’

‘‘I loved his stories of how Gerry and he met and that he loved her from the moment he saw her!!! Their love and devotion have been inspiring – It was an honor to get to know him.’’

‘‘There will always be an empty seat at First Presbyterian Church where Glee sat beside his beloved Gerry. He was a stately gentleman and a truly gentle man. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.’’

‘‘One of the rewards of serving on the Kansas 4–H Foundation was serving alongside people like Glee. Leadership, Vision, Wisdom, Caring, Friend – a few words that describe Glee Smith.’’

‘‘Although his impact was great in his efforts on behalf of the State of Kansas and KU, it was most significant in all the lives he touched along the way.’’

Glee Smith taught through his actions that true satisfaction in life comes from service to others. This is the legacy we should all hope to leave behind for the next generation.

I always believe what happens in the nation’s capital is important, but the truth is that we change the world one person at a time. While our work in the Senate matters, much more is accomplished by a person like Glee. I would ask my Senate colleagues to join me in extending our sympathies to Glee’s wife; three children, Sid, Stephen, and Susan; three grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren as they begin this new year in the absence of their loved one.