Special/Signature Issues » Young Catalysts

Brooks Smith, 37

Partner Hunton & Williams


As a partner and environmental lawyer at Hunton & Williams, Brooks Smith spends his days trying to protect the area's waterways. He has his lawyerly extracurriculars, too, volunteering with the Greater Richmond Chamber and running the Capital Region Land Conservancy, a group trying to save open space within the city and seven surrounding counties, focusing on the James River Park System.

But in his spare time he preserves moments.

He recently started work on an oral history project through the Richmond Jazz Society and has been delivering bimonthly radio addresses called Rediscovering Richmond on WCVE radio for five years.

You can catch him softly finishing each sentence in decrescendo, ruminating on the nature of particular trees or the beer cellars buried beneath Chimborazo Park.

His on-air career blew in with Hurricane Isabel. His wife and daughter were out of town when the storm hit and missed the impromptu block party where neighbors shared beer and traded stories in the street. He wrote an essay on the experience and gave it to his wife, who passed it along to WCVE. (It also ended up in Style Weekly.)

One engagement grew into regular appearances, and 25 of the radio essays have blossomed into a book coming out next month. He plans to donate the proceeds to the station.

After one of his essays on trees, a woman contacted him imploring him to visit the most beautiful tree in the city — right in her backyard. He shrugged and visited what indeed appeared to be Richmond's loveliest tree. Smith “enjoys the randomness,” he says. After all, “it's kind of the dream of a writer to make someone pause.”