Alumni Spotlight

JB Smiley Jr., ’09

By: Michelle Goff
February 15, 2017

In 2008, J.B. Smiley transferred from Tennessee Tech University to the University of Pikeville. Although it might seem as if he transferred only to play basketball, in Smiley’s words, “it was much more than that.”

“Pikeville played Tennessee Tech when I was there,” explains Smiley, a native of Memphis, Tenn. “When Coach Wells and Coach Riley, former assistant coach, got word I was going to transfer, they started recruiting me. I decided to attend after visiting Pikeville and interacting with the coaching staff, players and students.  What put the icing on the cake was when I learned I could work at a law firm (Glenn Martin Hammond Law Office) in the summer and get school credit for doing so.”

Smiley, who describes his experience working for attorney Glenn Hammond as “awesome,” majored in criminal justice at UPIKE. But soon after his arrival on campus, another program of study caught his attention.

“I met (Associate Professor of Sociology) Eric Primm and thought, ‘I have to figure out how to take all his classes,’” Smiley recalls. “I sat down with then-University President Hal Smith, (Chair of the Division of Social Sciences) Nancy Cade, and Eric. I told them I wanted to add sociology as a double major. They told me it would mean double the coursework, but they approved my request to take 23 hours one semester and 21 the other.”

Chuckling, Smiley continues, “My life became basketball practice and sleeping in the library. I got it all done, though. It wasn’t all bad.”

Following graduation, Smiley played basketball for the Harlem Ambassadors, then briefly in Mexico before joining the ABA, which is semi-professional league. After finishing his basketball career, he started law school at the William H. Bowen School of Law in Little Rock, Ark. Among the well-wishers at his 2015 law school graduation were Hal Smith and his wife Karen, who drove from Louisville to attend the ceremony. “That was a big deal to my family and me,” Smiley says.

Describing himself as “extremely ambitious,” Smiley adds, “I took the Arkansas State Bar Exam and then, while working on my book, ‘Born With It: Unleashing Your Greatness,’ I was also preparing to take the Tennessee State Bar Exam. I passed both bar exams on the first attempt.”

As an attorney for the Munson, Rowlett, Moore & Boone law firm in Little Rock, Smiley handles insurance defense matters as well as workers’ compensation. In some ways, he says practicing law is not that different from playing basketball.
“When you argue in front of a judge, it’s like playing a basketball game. You prepare for one hearing, just like you prepare for that one game. It’s a lot of work and it affects lives, but there’s joy when everything goes your way. I love it. I love helping people.”

His interest in helping people extends to the subject of his book and to the self-motivation speeches he gives at schools.

“We’re all born with innate abilities, but we have to develop them. We have to look inside and be focused on what we want out of life. I like to help people accomplish their goals and I love working with young people.”

Smiley gives credit to the people he met in Pikeville for helping him accomplish his goals.

“I’ve been a lot of different places,” he says. “One of the most influential was Pikeville. It’s because of the people.”

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