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Four Nebraska Attorneys Remembered 3/20/18  06/04/18 11:55:55 AM Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly Version

Four Nebraska
Attorneys Remembered
Nebraska mourns the recent passing of four attorneys with decades of service to the profession.

John Clay Smith Jr.
April 15, 1942 – Feb. 15, 2018
Omaha native John Clay Smith Jr. always reached for the stars and his accomplishments show it. After serving as class president at South High, he was the first black governor elected at the Cornhusker Boys’ State leadership training program. Following his graduation from Creighton University, he earned his law degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He served as a judge in the Army, attaining the rank of Captain. He was a former member of the Nebraska State Bar.
After serving as acting chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), where he championed the rights of people in the workplace, particularly minorities and women, he became the first African-American elected national president of the 15,000-member Federal Bar Association. In 1982, he left EEOC for Howard University School of Law as a faculty member, becoming dean in 1986. In his time at EEOC and at Howard, he fought tirelessly for people’s rights, including workplace sexual harassment protections in the face of serious political opposition.
He may be best known for his book, “Emancipation: The Making of The Black Lawyer — 1844 to 1944,” which profiled the history of black lawyers in America with a foreword written by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Smith left Howard in 2004 because of early onset Alzheimer’s and died February 15, 2018. He was 75. He is survived by four children, Stager, Michael, Michelle and Eugene; five grandchildren; and two sisters. He was preceded in death by his wife, Patti, but is survived by his first wife, Olivia Blackamore of Omaha.
Vondrasek was a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Memorials to Shrine Transportation Fund or Nebraska Humane Society.
William E. “Bill” Mooney
April 7, 1932 – Feb. 21, 2018
Bill Mooney died February 21 in Osage Beach, Mo., at age 85. The Nebraska College of Law graduate practiced law in Omaha for many years. He was a partner in the firm of Schmid, Ford, Fredricksen & Mooney.
He was preceded in death by his wife Sylvia. Survivors include children Andrea Schoenberg and Janet Terry, grandchildren Lincoln and Lauren, and sister Lynn Woodruff.

Hon. Robert Vondrasek
Oct. 28, 1933 – Feb. 22, 2018
A contemporary of Bill Mooney, Robert Vondrasek died the next day, on February 22. He was 84.
The former chairman of the Douglas County Democratic Party was appointed to Omaha Municipal Court in 1974 (which later became Douglas County Court) and retired 20 years ago, in 1998. While a judge, the Creighton law school graduate pioneered reforms with a policy change that gave people with drug or alcohol charges an alternative to jail – treatment. He was known for being tough but fair while on the bench. He traveled the state for 43 years performing “courthouse” marriages. Thomas Woods commented online that Vondrasek was “a kind hearted man” and “will be greatly missed.”
He was preceded in death by first wife, Diana. He is survived by his wife, Joyce, and children Bob Vondrasek and daughter Beth Hamilton, and four grandchildren.
Vondrasek was a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Memorials to Shrine Transportation Fund or Nebraska Humane Society.

Charles Thone
Jan. 4, 1924 – March 7, 2018
Charles “Charley” Thone died at 94, after a distinguished career in politics in Nebraska.
He served as Governor from 1979-1983, after serving four terms as a U.S. Congressman from 1971-1979.
The 1950 graduate of Nebraska College of Law continued to practice law in Lincoln after losing his gubernatorial reelection bid in 1982. In Congress, Thone served on the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which looked into the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Former CBS newsman Walter Cronkite called Thone “the conscience of the committee.”
Thone, a former Republican Party state chairman, was highly respected by members of both parties and praised for his service to Nebraska.  He was also a WWII veteran.
In 2010, he led a coalition of governors to persuade voters to reject a ballot measure that would have eliminated the Nebraska state treasurer’s office. The measure failed, but the state treasurer’s office was retained.
Survivors include his wife, the former Ruth Raymond, and three daughters.
Memorials are suggested to the Nebraska State Bar Foundation or Downtown Lincoln Rotary Foundation.
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