At the age of 98, James Burleson Smith passed away peacefully on May 9, 2015, surrounded by his family.

“Burley” was born on January 7, 1917 in Caldwell, Texas. His family soon moved to El Campo and relocated to San Antonio in 1927. Burley attended Mark Twain Junior High, graduated from Jefferson High School, and after a brief stint at San Antonio Junior College, enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, an institution with which he would have a lifelong love affair. He completed his time at the University in 1940, departing with a BBA, an LL.B., and “one thesis away” from an MBA.

James Burleson Smith
James Burleson Smith

He applied to the FBI and the U.S. Navy, and because the FBI “was the first to offer me a job,” joined the FBI. During his time as a special agent with the FBI, he was stationed in Florida and New York. In 1943 he resigned from the FBI to accept a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. Burley spent most of his time in World War II as Night Fighter Director on aircraft carriers, principally on the USS Ticonderoga. He was a crew member on the Ticonderoga on January 21, 1945, when the carrier was hit by two kamikazes in the South China Sea. In the next few days, more than 120 of Burley’s shipmates were buried at sea.

After the war, Burley joined the San Antonio law firm then known as Seeligson, Cox & Patterson. For the next 60 years, Burley was instrumental in leading the firm and its lawyers though growth and expansion as Cox, Smith & Patterson; Cox, Smith, Smith, Hale and Guenther; Cox & Smith Incorporated; and Cox Smith Matthews Incorporated. He was a well-respected and accomplished practitioner in oil and gas law, estate planning, banking, litigation and antitrust, among other areas. While he enjoyed working with a fascinating and diverse array of clients, he also enjoyed serving as a mentor to young lawyers and a friend and counselor to all of the extended Cox Smith family. He was devoted to the Cox Smith law firm and all of its people, from the most junior staff member to his fellow shareholders.

Among his many professional accomplishments, Burley was the longest-serving managing partner of Cox Smith, a fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, trustee emeritus of the Southwestern Legal Foundation and chair of the State Bar of Texas Sections of Mineral Law and Antitrust. Burley was recognized by the State Bar as an Outstanding 50 Year Lawyer; in 2006 he received the Joe Frazier Brown Award from the San Antonio Bar Association; and he was honored in 2011 as a Distinguished Counselor by the State Bar of Texas Section of Antitrust and Business Litigation. Burley was regularly in his office until 2012, staying in touch with the firm’s lawyers, administrative staff, and clientele.

Burley also made time to be active in a wide variety of civic pursuits, including service as trustee and corporate secretary at Texas Biomedical Research Institute; member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Texas Law School Foundation; member of the University of Texas Centennial Commission; member of the Executive Committee of the University of Texas Chancellor’s Council; trustee of the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation member of the Vestry and senior warden at Christ Episcopal Church. He also was a member of The Texas Cavaliers, the San Antonio Country Club, the Argyle Club, Club Giraud, the Order of the Alamo, The German Club, The Wednesday Lunch Club (a.k.a. The “Old Folks” Club), and the Pilon Club.

Passionate about South Texas and the Hill Country, Burley relished the opportunity to spend time with family and friends in the outdoors. He was an avid hunter, whose preference was to host family and friends and serve as “guide” or driver. But when family and friends were unavailable, Burley would saddle up in a hunting vehicle (for many years, a topless green Scout) and pursue a solitary search for his quarry. Occasionally, he was successful – but he was always renewed and invigorated by the hunt. His grandson, Burleson, became his favored hunting companion, and they shared many wonderful adventures in their quests. Over many years in the outdoors with both family and friends, Burley created a host of wonderful memories that sustained him well past the time he was able to be an active participant.

Burley was preceded in death by his parents, John M. and Willie V. Smith; his brothers, John M. Smith, Jr. and Louis E. Smith; and by his first wife, Constance Terrell Smith. He is survived by his wife, Jane Flato Smith; children, James B. Smith, Jr. and wife Whitney; Ellen Smith Fortunato and husband, Carl; Terrell Smith Minton and husband, Kekuni; stepchildren Ted Flato and wife Katy and Malou Flato and husband John Taliaferro. He is also survived by grandchildren, Burleson Smith and Malie Minton, and by Hannah and Malou Flato.

The family would like to extend heartfelt thanks to Burley’s caregivers: Idalia, Delia, and Betty Leija; Ruth and Moses Martinez; Janie Perez; Sonia Lopez; and Maria Gonzales, who together provided attentive and loving care to “Abuelo” Burley for the last six years.

Visitation will be held on Tuesday, May 12 from 5-7 p.m. at Porter Loring Mortuary at 1101 McCullough Ave.

A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, May 13 at 3 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, 510 Belknap Place.

Interment will be private for the family. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to Texas Biomedical Research Institute, 7620 NW Loop 410, San Antonio, TX 78227; The University of Texas Law School Foundation, 727 E. Dean Keeton St., Austin, TX 78705; or the Texas Cavaliers Charitable Foundation, PO Box 6927, San Antonio, TX 78209.

You are invited to sign the guest book at

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San Antonio Report Staff

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff.