Born in Alloa, the son of a builder, he moved to Glasgow in 1826.
He became associated with
David and James Hamilton
in the 1830s, when he collaborated with them in the development of Royal Exchange Square and the Royal Bank of Scotland which closes its west side (1830-9), the latter from plans by Archibald Elliot and Robert Black.
's daughter, he partnered his brother-in-law, James Hamilton
, 1843-9, and later formed a short lived partnership with their former assistant, John Baird II.
Independently, he designed the Victoria Baths, 106-8 West Nile Street (1837); the Collegiate School, Garnethill (1840, dem.); the McLellan Galleries, 254-90 Sauchiehall Street (1855-6); and Bellahouston Church, Clifford Street (1863).
For the McLellan Galleries he commissioned
to produce the bust of Queen Victoria
above its main door, together with an escutcheon bearing the Glasgow coat of arms and a shield with the heraldic device of Archibald McLellan, the galleries' founder.
In June 1857, Smith's professional and private life was shaken by the trial of his daughter, Madeleine Smith, for murder.
Although she was acquitted, the scandal forced his family to move from their home in Helensburgh to Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire, and then to Polmont, Edinburgh, where he died.
His final works were Overtoun House, Dumbarton (1860-3) and Stirlings Library, 48-56 Miller Street (1863-4), for which he supervised its designer, J Moyr Smith, and which was completed by Melvin & Leiper after both Smiths had left Glasgow.