A “battle with cancer” is an overused term, but in Greg’s case, it was genuinely a lifelong fight after he was told in his 20s that he wouldn’t live long.
At one point, in his 30s, doctors said he had three months to live.
Greg was diagnosed with an incredibly rare brain tumor, yet managed to survive for another four decades.
Every businessperson and entrepreneur has their own reasons for starting a company, but in Greg’s case, it was motivated heavily by his own experiences at the hands of the medical profession.
He refused to accept the bleak prognosis from the medics, and embarked on a worldwide quest to find specialist doctors to help with his condition.
At one point, intensive searches led him to a specialist on a small island off the Japanese coast, and other doctors around the world who were willing to improvise treatments to keep him alive.
Greg’s battles with the medical profession inspired him to launch Best Doctors, a directory of the best medical practitioners in the United States.
Best Lawyers followed soon after, utilizing the same concept.
I didn’t know Greg well but I met him a few times, the first time in 2008, when I was hired by Best Lawyers as a consultant to help develop some of their products and services.
Along with his partner Steve, they welcomed me into their home and business in Aiken, South Carolina.
We shared a number of dinners together and I learnt more about his passion for art and publishing.
The most remarkable thing about Greg was that his illness did not deter him from pursuing life to its fullest.
As well as being legal directory pioneers, the Best Lawyers founders led double lives as prolific authors and biographers.
Perhaps their greatest achievement was in 1990, when their book “Jackson Pollock: An American Saga” won the Pulitzer Prize, and later served as the basis for the Academy Award-winning film “Pollock”.
Then in 2011, a biography of Van Gogh, which stirred global controversy by debunking the widely accepted theory that Van Gogh committed suicide and arguing instead that village bullies shot him.
When I last saw Greg in 2009, he was hard at work on the Van Gogh book, which was published alongside a 6,000-page companion website – the product of a decades’ work.
For more on Greg’s life, please read this obituary.
(Gregory White Smith, pictured left, with Steven Naifeh)