Of all those named to the Reagan Cabinet, none has longer or stronger personal ties to the President-elect than William French Smith. Attorney General-designate Smith is a charter member of ronald Reagan's "kitchen cabinet," the group of wealthy conservative Californians who first talked Mr. Reagan into entering politics, then remained in the background as solid supporters and advisers. He fought his friend's political battles during earlier presidential quests (1968 and 1976), served as a Reagan appointee to the University of california Board of Reagents during the tumultuous Vietnam and "people's park" years, and has been reagan's lawyer for 15 years.
A graduate of the University of California (summa cum laude) and Harvard Law School, Mr. Smith is a transplanted New Englander who fell in love with California as a young man and stayed to become very successful in his chosen profession.
Following US Naval Reserve service during World War II, Smith joined one of California's largest law firms and rose to become senior partner. A specialist in labor law, he also served as director of several large corporations and was president of the California Chamber of commerce.
But he is a thorough conservative, particularly on matters of law concerning business and finance. He wants fewer environmental regulations, has tried to get business officials more politically involved, and helped Reagan formulate his welfare reform program in California.
Smith is involved in two controversies that could raise questions with women's rights organizations and certain minority groups about his appointment as the nation's chief legal officer. He is a member of two men-only private clubs, the Bohemian Club in San Francisco and the California Club in Los Angeles. The Bohemian Club (of which vice President-elect George Bush and Reagan are also members) has been accused of sex discrimination in its hiring practices by the California Fair Employment Practices Commission.
Smith also is a defendant in a suit brought by a group of farm workers who oppose University of California farm mechanization projects that help agribusiness corporations. The suit charges that Smith's financial interests (and those of several other members of the university Board of Regents) benefit from the research.