Jean Webb Vaughan Smith, a member of Ronald and Nancy Reagans’ inner circle who championed volunteerism as national president of the Association of Junior Leagues, died Jan. 25 in Los Angeles. She was 93.
The family confirmed the death but did not disclose the cause.
Mrs. Smith joined the Junior League in the 1950s, rising to president of the Los Angeles chapter in 1954 and western regional director in 1956. She served as national president from 1958 to 1960. Her decades of public service also included government appointments and civic roles, including serving on the boards of the United Way, the American Red Cross and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
A seasoned Washington wife, she was close to two Republican administrations. Her first husband, George William Vaughan, was assistant secretary of defense under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Her second husband, William French Smith, was attorney general under President Reagan.
Jean Webb was born in Los Angeles on Aug. 5, 1918. She entered Stanford University to study Greek and Latin. She met Vaughan at Stanford, graduated in 1940 and married him two years later. After World War II, they settled in Los Angeles, where he prospered as an auto dealer and she raised their two children.
They were married until Vaughan’s death in 1963. She is survived by their children and five grandchildren.
After Vaughan died, she worked briefly in the public affairs office at San Francisco’s Mark Hopkins Hotel, where she met Smith. They were married in 1964.
Smith became Ronald Reagan’s personal lawyer, confidant, business adviser and, in 1981, attorney general. Mrs. Smith served on the President’s Advisory Commission on White House Fellowships. They enjoyed the social scene in D.C., where Mrs. Smith drew unwelcome attention from Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen.
“The ears of Mrs. William French Smith dangle earrings that cost more than a house,” Cohen wrote in a 1982 piece attacking the Reagan administration for being insensitive to the needs of ordinary citizens.
Mrs. Smith fired back in a letter critical of Cohen. She said her earrings were fakes that cost about $40, just enough to buy “a small doghouse, into which he could fit.”