Smith Lanier II attended Auburn University 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
After completing his education, Lanier Joined his aunt’s West Point, Georgia insurance firm in 1950, known then as Lanier Insurance Agency His initial career was cut short when he was called to serve in the Korean War on active duty as an engineering officer aboard the USS Ault DD698.
Upon returning from service, he purchased the insurance agency. In the early 80s, the agency was incorporated under the name of J. Smith Lanier & Co. Today, the company is recognized nationally as one of the oldest and largest insurance brokerage firms in the United States. Lanier served as chairman and CEO of the agency until 1998 and Chairman Emeritus until his death in December 2013. His nephew, D. Gaines Lanier, is now chairman and CEO.
Lanier was a founding director of many companies, five being publicly traded, including Interface, Inc, SouthernNet, and Powertel, Inc (formerly lntercel, Inc and now T-Mobile). He received numerous honors for his business prowess including being named Georgia’s Small Business Person of the Year in 1997 and the National Small Business Person of the Year in 1998.
Not only was Lanier an exceptional business leader, but a philanthropist as well. He led the capital campaign to build the state-of-the-art Center for Therapeutic Recreation at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. The Center named its lodge the J. Smith Lanier Lodge in his honor. Since 2005, J. Smith Lanier & Co. has been the signature sponsor for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation’s Charity Golf Classic and has raised more than $2 million for the Foundation.
J. SmithLanier & Co. also donated $50,000 toward the Haitian relief fund and has built numerous houses throughout the years for Habitat for Humanity and The Fuller Center for Housing. Lanier was a strong advocate for education at all levels, being a founder of Springwood School in Lanett, Alabama, and serving as Trustee on several boards, including the United States Merchant Marine Academy, LaGrange College, and Oglethorpe University Atlanta Christian College (now Point University) and Auburn University were causes dear to his heart He was key in re-establishing Point University under its new charter and relocating it from East Point to West Point, Georgia. They honored Lanier by naming their Academic Center in his memory. At Auburn, Lanier served on the first Dean’s Advisory Board of the College of Human Sciences. The college presented him with its International Quality of Life Award – at the United Nations Headquarters – and later the Auburn University Alumni Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
Lanier also had a hand in politics He served as a county chairman on the state executive committee of the Alabama Republican Party and was elected as a presidential elector in 1964. He was also a delegate to two Republican National conventions.
One of Lanier’s highest achievements was becoming an Eagle Scout He credits the Boy Scout Oath and the twelve Boy Scout laws as one of the foundations of his personal and business life. Lanier was a seventh-generation member of Spring Road Christian Church in Lanetti where he served as Chairman of the Board, Elder, and Trustee. According to his wife, his favorite scripture was Proverbs 3:5-6. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In ALL thy ways acknowledge HIM and HE will direct your paths.’
He is survived by his wife Betty, three daughters, eight grandchildren, and two sisters.