J. Smith Lanier II
Chairman emeritus of West Point company dies
J. Smith Lanier II, chairman emeritus of the West Point, Ga.-based J. Smith Lanier & Co., has died.
In addition to being an entrepreneur and business leader, Smith Lanier was also a community servant, corporate citizen and philanthropist. He died Dec. 19 at East Alabama Medical Center. He was 85 years old.
Smith Lanier leaves a legacy of integrity, service and commitment to God, family and country.
Born Jan. 15, 1928, in Egan, Georgia, J. Smith Lanier II graduated from West Point High School in 1945. He attended Auburn University (A.P.I.) in 1945 and 1946 before transferring to the United States Merchant Marine Academy, where he obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a commission in the United States Navy.
In 1950, Mr. Lanier joined his aunt’s insurance agency, Lanier Insurance Agency, based in West Point. His business career was interrupted during the Korean War by two years of active duty aboard the USS Ault DD698, where he served as its Engineering Officer.
When he returned from service, he purchased the agency which in the early 1980s was incorporated under the name J. Smith Lanier & Co. In the intervening years, a business that began with a single office and five employees grew to national prominence with offices throughout Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky.
Today, the company — which currently represents Coweta County government — is recognized as one of the oldest and largest insurance brokerage firms in the United States. He served as chairman and chief executive officer of the agency until 1998 and was chairman emeritus until his death. His nephew, D. Gaines Lanier, is now Chairman and CEO.
Throughout his life, Smith Lanier helped launch many other business ventures. He was a founding director of five publicly traded companies, including Async, Inc.; SouthernNet; Interface, Inc. (NASDAQ); Valley Realty Company, Inc.; ITC Holding Co., Inc.; Avdata, Inc.; National Vision Associates, Inc.; Cookbook Brands, Inc. (now Beverage House); Powertel, Inc. (formerly Intercel, Inc. and now TMobile); ITC DeltaCom (NASDAQ).
He served on several boards of trustees, including the USMMMA, LaGrange College, Oglethorpe University, and Atlanta Christian College (Point University). He was key in reestablishing Atlanta Christian College under its new charter, Point University, and its relocation from East Point to West Point, Georgia.
Auburn University was very dear to Mr. Lanier. He served on the first Dean’s Advisory Board of the College of Human Sciences. From 1993 to 1995 he served on the Auburn University Foundation Board. He was a member of the 1856 Society and a life member of the Alumni Association. In December 2000, the college honored Mr. Lanier with its International Quality of Life award, presented at the United Nations. In 2010, he was presented with the Auburn University Alumni Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
He was instrumental in leading a capital campaign to build a state-of-the-art Center for Therapeutic Recreation at Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. He also served on the Board of Visitors of Callaway Gardens Foundation for many years.
Mr. Lanier was active in local, regional and national politics. He served as a county chairman on the state executive committee of the Alabama Republican party. In 1964, he served as a presidential elector from the state of Alabama. He was a delegate to two Republican National conventions and remained a strong supporter of conservative policies and representatives.
Services were held Monday, Dec. 23 at 11 (EST) at Spring Road Christian Church in Lanett, AL. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Spring Road Christian Church, Point University, Springwood School, Boy Scouts of America, or to the charity of one’s choice.