Henry Buist Smythe was born in Charleston on June 1, 1920 to Augustine T. Smythe and Harriott Buist. He attended Yale University and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1942. He went on to attend the University of Virginia and received an LL.B. in 1947. While in Law School, he was a member of the Order of the Coif and the Raven Society.
After graduating from Law School, he began the practice of law with his uncles at the firm of Buist & Buist. In 1970, he became a founding partner of the firm Buist, Moore, Smythe & McGee.
He served as President of the South Carolina Bar from 1972–73. He served as Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Charleston for 16 years and held posts in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War.
He was a member and elder and served for many years as President of the Church Corporation of the Second Presbyterian Church of Charleston. He also served as President of the Saul Alexander Foundation and as a trustee of the Historical Charleston Foundation and the College of Charleston Foundation. In 1990, he received an honorary doctorate of Humanities from the College of Charleston.
Henry Buist Smythe is survived by Mary Ridgway and four sons, Guy R. Smythe, Henry B. Smythe, Jr., David McCord Smythe, George B. Smythe and eleven grandchildren.