Judy Smith was born and raised in Washington, DC. She attended St. Francis de Sales Elementary School and then the Academy of Notre Dame (closed in 1989, the student body merged into Archbishop Carroll High). After high school, she entered Boston University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations. She continued her education at American University, graduating with a law degree from the Washington College of Law. She was the first African-American woman to serve as Executive Editor of the American University Law Review.
A childhood friend said that in middle school, Smith "was already a peacemaker, trying to patch up romances or resolve playground disputes".
In 1983-1984, Smith was employed as assistant editor for the Nurses Association of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Washington, DC. After graduation from American University, she became Deputy Director of Public Information and Associate Counsel in the Office of the Independent Counsel from 1987–1989. In 1989, Smith was appointed Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, serving as principal adviser to the U.S. Attorney on media relations and chief spokesperson. Starting March 7, 1991, Smith served as Special Assistant and Deputy Press Secretary to President George H. W. Bush. While there, Smith earned a reputation for being straightforward, honest and hard working. She was reportedly instrumental in guiding the Bush administration through the controversies surrounding the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. While working for the White House. She also helped navigate through other crises including the 1991 Gulf War and relations with Kuwait and the Iran–Contra affair.
Shortly after leaving the White House staff, Smith started Smith & Company, a consulting firm specializing in crisis management and media relations. She and her firm advised such notable people as Monica Lewinski and NFL quarterback Michael Vick as well as governments and corporations at all levels.
After her work for President Bush, Smith worked for NBC as vice president of communications where she was responsible for news, sports and entertainment shows. Her crisis management work inspired the political-thriller television series Scandal. In 2009, Smith was introduced to Shonda Rhimes, creator of the hit TV series Grey's Anatomy, and her partner Betsy Beers, a co-executive producer. That meeting was scheduled for less than half an hour but went on for more than two, resulting in development of the show, Smith currently serves as co-executive producer and technical advisor for the show.
Smith's first book was released on April 3rd, 2012, to generally good reviews. Kirkus Reviews summarized with, "Smith provides a good overview of how to identify and curtail egregious behavior, with just enough celebrity misbehavior to hold the reader’s attention." Publishers Weekly was less enthusiastic, concluding that her "approach feels unwieldy and better suited to accompany her services as a crisis manager than as a do-it-yourself program." Judy Smith has also written one book: Good Self, Bad Self: Transforming Your Worst Qualities into Your Biggest Assets, Free Press (2012), ISBN 978-1-4516-4999-4, 288pp She writes blogs for a couple of on-line entities. Ask Judy is a feature of the Huffington Post where Smith is listed among the Black Voices. In tandem with her role at ABC television, she writes a What Would Judy Do? blog for each episode of the series Scandal. Truly an amazing woman.
- Judy Smith's Wikipedia page