Cowley County Attorney Christopher Smith has for an ancestor a signer of the original Declaration of Independence.
His ambition did not start with a judicial seat, however.
“I wanted to be a lawyer since I was a kid — it was something that I always knew I wanted to be,” he said in an interview Aug. 4.
It was through practicing law that Smith said he came to realize he wanted to be a judge.
Although he always emulated lawyers, his immediate family is made up of mostly teachers.
But Smith’s ancestor, Edward Rutledge, was a very historically relevant lawyer. Rutledge was the youngest man to sign the Declaration of Independence.
If you trace Smith’s roots through his father’s side of the family, the Rutledges are only three generations removed — Smith’s father’s mother’s father (Smith’s great-grandfather) was a Rutledge.
Smith said he remembers his great-grandfather saying there “were Rutledges in Carolina before there were two Carolinas.”
Rutledge was born Nov. 23, 1749, in Charleston, S.C.
He graduated from Oxford University, studied at Middle Temple in London and was a member of the English Bar (a barrister, or lawyer).
Rutledge held many titles, including:
- state legislator and representative to the Continental Congress, 1774-1776, 1779;
- captain, Charleston Battalion of Artillery, 1776-1779;
- state legislator, 1782-1796;
- College of Electors, 1788, 1792, 1796;
- elected governor for South Carolina, 1798.
He died Jan. 23, 1800, after falling ill with gout.
Smith recently was asked to be one of the 56 framers of the Cowley County Declaration of Independence by Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum.
The museum holds an original third-copy reproduction of the Declaration of Independence. The document is on permanent display at the museum.
The copy has been identified as one of 12 such known documents by the Smithsonian Institution.
“I am humbled and honored to have been named (a framer),” Smith said.
He signed the framers’ document in the exact same space that his ancestor signed the original Declaration of Independence.
The framers’ document was unveiled July 23 during the 50th anniversary of Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum.