Lawyer Otto Smith, Clovis family beloved

By Don McAlavy: CNJ columnist

My mother and us three kids came to town (Clovis) from the farm and met Otto Smith in the summer of 1944. She asked Smith if he would be her lawyer in the divorce of her husband.

Smith said he would and immediately asked my mother if my brother, 16-year-old Herbert, being a farmhand, would work on his farm during wheat cutting. She told Smith that her son would like to go to work for him! And that’s how we met one of the smartest lawyers in Clovis.
Otto Smith was born Oct. 20, 1892, in Clinton, Mo., the son of William T. and Ann (Travis) Smith. His father was born in Harrison County, Mo., and was a farmer. Smith had a public school education and then attended the Southwestern Normal School in Weatherford, Okla., receiving his Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1923.

He began practicing law Aug. 1, 1924, in Clovis. He owned and operated a farm and ranch between Clovis and Texico, where he raised livestock. He also was president of the El Rancho Milling Company of Clovis, and held directorates in the First Federal Savings and Loan Company of Clovis, and the First National Bank of Melrose.

Smith was a Mason, a member of the Curry Curry, New Mexico and American Bar Associations. He was on the board of the state penitentiary and the Methodist Orphans Home in Waco, Texas. He worshiped at the Methodist Church and was a member of the board of stewards. He was a Republican in his politics.

On April 30, 1920, in Watonga, Okla., Smith married Eva Burge, born May 30, 1895, in Kremlin, Garfield County, Okla. They had a son, Darrell O., born July 17, 1925, in Clovis. He attended New Mexico Agricultural and Mechanical College. He rode saddle broncs and bulls in the rodeos, served in World War II in the Marines from 1944 to 1946. He went Korea and was killed Oct. 6, 1952.

He received the Silver Star and the Bronze Star.

Their second child, Esther, was born April 4, 1928, in Clovis. She is a graduate of Cottey College, Nevada, Mo., and of the University of Oklahoma, receiving her Bachelor of Laws degrees in 1950 and 1952, respectively. She was an honor student. She returned to Clovis and practiced with her father, starting in1953. She was the only graduate in her law class at the University of Oklahoma. She has served as city attorney of Clovis. She married Ted Van Soelen, the son of the famous artist, Theodore Van Soelen.

Otto Smith and his wife Eva, and Esther and Ted Van Soelen were two of the best loved families in Clovis. Otto Smith died March 10, 1961. Eva Smith died April 13, 1969.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: