Virgil C. Smith, retired judge and ex-state lawmaker, vies for Detroit City Council seat



  • Wayne County Circuit Court
  • Virgil C. Smith
Virgil C. Smith, a former state lawmaker and retired Wayne County Circuit Court judge, plans to run for a seat on the Detroit City Council.

The 73-year-old told The Detroit News he is running for the District 4 seat held by Councilman Andre Spivey, who plans to run for an at-large council seat in the August primary election. The district borders Harper Woods and the Grosse Pointes and includes East English Village on the city’s east side.

Smith already has competition. Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter M.L. Elrick and Spivey’s chief of staff Keith Jones also plan to run.

Smith served in the state House of Representatives from 1977 to 1988 and the Michigan Senate from 1988 to 2000. In 1995, Smith became the first Black floor leader in the Senate.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed Smith to the Wayne County Circuit Court in 2004, and he became the chief judge of the 3rd Circuit in 2009.

A 1965 graduate of Pershing High School, Smith has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Michigan State University and a law degree from Wayne State University.

“I think the city could use my experience and history,” Smith told The News. “I spent 24 years in the Legislature. I know how to behave in the legislative process. I know how to, hopefully, bring my colleagues or future colleagues — if the voters choose me — to make it as an effective legislative body as we can get.”

Smith’s son, Virgil K. Smith, served in the state Senate and was sentenced to nine months in jail in 2016 after he was charged with opening fire on his ex-wife’s Mercedes-Benz with an AR-15 rifle.

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