WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- William Kennedy Smith has all the makings of a sophisticated politician but as the son of Stephen and Jean Smith, he also appears to have inherited a genuine low-key manner.
Smith has had senators and a president for uncles and has Harvard- educated lawyers for cousins. He will inherit his share of a family fortune worth perhaps half a billion dollars. He's the product of private schools and extensive world travels.
But he has followed a path different from the Harvard lawyer-turned- politician path that many expect from a Kennedy grandson.
Smith's mother, Jean Kennedy, was the second youngest and least competitive of the nine children of multimillionaire financier Joseph P. Kennedy. Her mother Rose Kennedy has described her as not 'particularly ambitious' and others say she was the least interested in social distinction.
And while her sister Eunice married urbane Sargent Shriver and Patricia married actor Peter Lawford, Jean married a quiet businessman, Stephen Smith.
When they married in 1955, Stephen Smith was an executive in his family's shipping business. His business expertise was soon put to work managing a much bigger enterprise: the Kennedy family businesses.
Smith took up the reins of the Park Agency Inc., the holding company for the Kennedy family enterprises. As chief executive, he managed such Kennedy assets as the giant Chicago Merchandise Mart, the second-largest building in the world after the Pentagon. Other family holdings include at least two oil companies.
Smith also took an active role in managing Kennedy family affairs. He played significant roles in the presidential campaigns of John Kennedy in 1960 and Robert Kennedy in 1968. He was with Robert at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when gunman Sirhan Sirhan shot him down. Smith took charge of the situation, calling for a doctor and summoning aid.
Smith was known for his ability at 'damage control' whenever there was a family scandal. After Teddy's accident at Chappaquiddick island in 1969, Smith assembled and coordinated a team of political and legal advisers. And when David Kennedy died of a drug overdose in Palm Beach in 1984, he helped to steer the ensuing publicity.
Throughout it all, Smith always exercised his enormous power quietly, preferring to maintain a low profile and work behind the scenes.
The Smith union produced two sons, Stephen Jr. after two years of marriage and William after another three years. Several years later the Smiths completed their family by adopting two daughters. Amanda Smith is six years younger than William. Vietnamese-born Kym Smith is 12 years his junior.
Stephen Smith Sr. died last year. But his two sons carry on their father's quiet tradition, each in his own way.
Older brother Stephen Jr., 34, is said to have adopted his father's disposition toward being a power broker, choosing a legal career and showing an interest in politics, much in the Kennedy tradition.
William, 31, has followed a more independent path and steered clear of the Kennedy stereotype in many ways.
While his brother and most of his cousins have gone northeast for college, Smith chose to go south, to Duke University in Durham, N.C.
After earning a history degree in 1983, Smith appeared uncertain of what he wanted to do for a career. At his father's urging, he tried investment banking on Wall Street but gave that up after just three months.
He then took some time off to travel and 'find himself,' touring Europe, Asia, and South America. He returned home with his mind made up: he wanted to be a doctor. After some pre-med courses at Bryn Mawr, he enrolled at Georgetown University Medical School in 1987.
Smith was in his last term in medical school when he made his fateful trip to the Kennedy family home in Palm Beach last March to be with his mother and sister Amanda for Easter weekend.
Early Saturday, he brought a Palm Beach woman home from a bar and had sex withher. She claims he raped her.
Last spring, Smith completed his school term and received his medical degree, slipping out of graduation ceremonies early through a side exit to avoid reporters. But his residency training, scheduled for an Albuquerque, N.M., hospital, has been put on hold until after the trial.
Smith is paying the cost of his defense, which has been reported to be running more than $1 million.
Kennedy family spokeswoman Barbara Gamarekian declined to confirm the amount but said Smith is paying the cost and has had to borrow money to do so.
His credit is good, however. His mother is the beneficiary of numerous trusts set up for his children by Joseph Kennedy before his death in 1969. A 1983 estimate put the value of the total Kennedy fortune at $350 million and Jean's annual income from the trusts at $500,000 to $1 million.