His skill as a politician faced repeated challenges, including the integration of the Georgia school system and the 1966 gubenatorial election, but George Leon Smith's dedication to the legislative branch of government shone through, even during these difficult times in Georgia's history.
First elected to the Georgia House in 1944, Smith ran unopposed from 1950 through 1972. Popular in his hometown of Swainsboro (Emanuel County), one of this Democrat's early battles was to install kindergarten in every school and extend the number of years students attended before graduating. Smith pushed unsuccessfully for state-funded secondary schools. In 1959, Georgia Governor Ernest Vandiver
appointed Smith Speaker of the House.
In 1962 Governor Carl Sanders made Smith majority whip while George T. Smith served as speaker. From this time on George L. Smith fought for independence of the legislative branch of government. He would become the first speaker elected by the Georgia House in 1967. In 1966 he oversaw the controversial gubernatorial election between Bo Callaway and Lester Maddox. When third party candidate Ellis Arnell forced the election to the house, the Democrats elected segregationist Lester Maddox as governor, simply because he was the Democrat contender. Moderate Bo Callaway, the Republican who held a plurality, lost. As a result, Smith began pushing for plurality votes in general elections.
A Georgia Historical marker in front of a park in downtown Swainsboro reads:
Home of George Leon Smith, II
1912 - 1973
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives for 29 years and Speaker of that body for 11 years, longer than any other man (at the time the marker was installed). He was the 12th Georgian in History to lie in state at the Rotunda of the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia. The World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Administration Building of the Emanuel County Junior College are named in his memory both of which he helped to establish.