Lester "Ruff" Glenn Fant III
January 24, 1941 – May 19, 2019
Lester Glenn (“Ruff”) Fant, III, of Washington, D.C. died Sunday, May 19, surrounded by his loving family.
Ruff was born to Lester Glenn Fant, Jr. and Gladys Sage Fant in Memphis, Tennessee on January 24, 1941. A native of Holly Springs, Mississippi, Ruff spent most of his adult life in Washington, D.C. He leaves behind his wife, Susan Braselton Fant; three children, James Selden Fant (Christine) of Los Angeles, California, Cordelia Judith Fant (Kevin O’Malley) of Madison, Wisconsin, and Henry Collier Fant of Washington, D.C.; three grandchildren, Enzo Freeland Gallo, Nico Samuel Gallo and Erik Shane Fant; and a brother, William Henry Sage Fant, and sister, Nancy Fant Smith; and his former wife, Barbara G. Fant.
Ruff graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1963 and from Harvard Law School in 1966. He was on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1966-69, rising to the rank of captain and earning a Navy Achievement Medal for his service.
He had a long and successful career in business and the law. Most recently, Ruff was Chairman of Galway Partners and Tow-Path Partners, LLC and their predecessor specialty finance companies that he founded in 1999. He was founder and Managing Director of Arena Investments. Highlights of his legal career include tenures as a partner at Cohen & Uretz and Sidley & Austin, where he sat on the executive committee, and as in-house counsel for Cassidy and Associates. Ruff was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center for 18 years while he practiced law, teaching an advanced course in corporate taxation and ethics in the graduate program. He was awarded the American Bar Association Award for Professional Merit.
Ruff devoted himself to education, historic preservation and land conservation. He served on the Visiting Committee of the College of Arts and Sciences at Vanderbilt University and on the Dean’s Advisory Board at Harvard Law School. He was a Trustee of Sidwell Friends School and Aidan Montessori School. He was Chairman of the Fudan Foundation, which supports the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. Ruff was Chairman Emeritus of President Lincoln’s Cottage. He served on the Board and as Chairman the Civil War Trust (now American Battlefield Trust). He served on the Board of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Ruff sat on the Advisory Board of the Partnership for Responsible Growth. Ruff was a member of Foundry United Methodist Church and attended St. Alban’s Episcopal Church.
A funeral service will be held at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. on May 31, 2019 at 4 p.m. with a burial in Braselton, Georgia on June 7. A memorial service is planned in Holly Springs, Mississippi at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be directed to President Lincoln’s Cottage, First Methodist Church of Holly Springs, Mississippi, and Preserve Marshall County and Holly Springs, Inc.
- Funeral Mass Friday, May 31, 2019
Lester "Ruff" Glenn Fant III
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A Friend of Delia and Jamie
June 18, 2019
I was so sorry to hear of Ruff’s death and wanted to share some memories of him. You all were an important part of my childhood. I always felt welcome in your home and enjoyed the parties, some with string quartets, others that were hoe downs. I remember Ruff’s care in making his special eggnog, and I remember he was a good sport about letting Beth and me test him with increasingly spicy foods once we learned that he liked spice. I remember how he hummed to Delia to settle her down for a nap or bedtime. My first job ever was watching Delia after school. I rode the bus to your house by myself, which we would never let kids do today, but it gave me a sense of confidence and mastery. In 1989, Ruff gave me my first professional job as a paralegal at Sidley, which became a strong item in my resume and interviews when applying for summer associate positions in law school. I regret that he had to pass away so soon and so suddenly. Many happy memories help but do not make up for his loss.
June 17, 2019
Ruff Fant was our Osborne Tour guide to Europe with 24 other coeds from southern universities for two months in the summer of 1964. We were amazed at his effective and gentle ability to make sure everyone was taken care of and having fun. Toward the end of the long trip, Ruff got on the microphone in the bus and offered us a very important life lesson. We had started in London, traveled through central Europe to Venice, had spent a week in Greece before taking a 7-day Greek Island Cruise, and returned via Italy to the French Riviera. Somewhere late in the afternoon between Avignon and the medieval town of Carcassonne, Ruff realized that we were a very weary group and he needed to rally the troops, so he spoke wisely to this effect: “We’ve had an amazing trip and seen wonderful things and I know you are tired. However, we have been enjoying a fantastic banquet and the next part of our trip is the dessert. One day you’ll look back and realize what an extraordinary part of France is in store for our last week.” We continued to the Loire Valley and into Paris with a renewed spirit and perspective. Ruff never showed favorites, and we like to think that the insight he got that summer with 26 coeds better prepared him for the rest of the banquet. Celia A. Griffin, Birmingham, and Sally Q. Gates, Columbus, Ga.
June 6, 2019
Dear Susan, James, Delia, Henry, Enzo, Nico, Erik and Barbara,
I would like to offer my sincere condolences on the passing of your husband, father, grandfather and friend - Mr. “Ruff’ Fant.
It seems like only yesterday when I was chasing my older brother (John) as we rounded the corner of Macomb and 45th streets in Wesley Heights. Our hearts were pounding with tremendous anticipation of what the day at “Jamie and Delia’s” would have for us. Would it be playing football in the yard, “flying” on the rope swing, competing in summer games on the Commodore 64, going swimming at Mt. Vernon where you could miraculously survive an accidental belly flop your first time jumping off the high dive, going to the farm or obtaining the most coveted of prizes ---- an invitation to Little Switzerland???!!! (“But Delia, I’m only 8 and don’t have any money for a passport so we will have to do a lemonade stand. How much money do we need?”)
Oh the possibilities….
More often than not, upon arriving at the Fant’s John and I were greeted at the door by the only man in our lives that seemed excited to see us… a man that we loved and considered our second father - Mr. Fant. He always welcomed us with his booming voice… “Hello John! Hello Christian!”
After a day of fun when night fall snuck up on us and we were sad to leave, almost always Mr. Fant would grab Patty and walk us home safely. What wonderful memories.
(Cont'd 1 of 2).
June 6, 2019
(Cont’d post 2 of 2)
Beyond being integral to my fond childhood memories, Mr. Fant was a significant influence in my life and in honor of him being laid to rest this weekend, I would like to share some words of wisdom that he shared with me many years ago. I believe that his advice reflects his qualities, values, grace, compassion and his unconditional love for others.
I was facing significant academic and financial adversity at the age of 19. While my older brother had taught me how to compete at the highest level through relentless perseverance, I didn’t really understand how to recover from failure – especially when self-induced.
In June of 1993, while attending Delia’s Sidwell pre-graduation party, I had a chance to talk with Mr. Fant privately. I could barely look Mr. Fant in the eye as I explained my decisions and actions that led to - what seemed to me at the time – an unrecoverable situation. I was about to lose everything that I had spent my entire young life working towards.
However, instead of judging me as so many others had already done, Mr. Fant graciously mentored me. I feel that his advice from that day is timeless and should be shared with everyone – whether they are 19 or 90. I sincerely hope it offers encouragement to his beloved family, friends and their future generations when they are inevitably confronted with the setbacks of life.
Here is what Mr. Fant said to me that June day 26 years ago,
“It’s going to be okay. You just made a mistake, Christian – that’s all. We learn from our mistakes. We’re only as good as our last game. Don’t worry, you may have had a bad game, but the season isn’t over….. It’s not too late……. It’s never too late to start again.”
On behalf of my wife, my five daughters and me, thank Mr. Fant for believing in me and showing me how to recover from failure – when practically nobody else thought I could.
My deepest sympathies and love to all of you-
Debbie McCain Wesley
June 5, 2019
While my initial encounter with Mr. Fant was brief, it was memorable. I had the pleasure of meeting him along with his lovely wife Susan and son Henry at an Ole Miss Admissions event in March. As we spoke standing in the Grove, I could tell immediately that he loved his family and friends, believed strongly in education and was committed to his southern roots. He was welcoming and unpretentious, which made our conversation that much more delightful. We talked about Sidwell Friends, as I was hoping to secure a visit there this fall. May he rest peacefully and may his family find endless comfort in the Comforter.
June 4, 2019
This is an update to a memory I just sent.
I met Ruff as soon as we entered law school, roomed with him for two years, first on Harvard Street and then at Lincoln’s Inn, and have been a close friend ever since. With all the memories, marriage, children, careers, I have been trying to think of some common denominator for all my associations and came up with reading. Reading everything, newspapers, magazines, novels, history, biographies. Whenever I talked with Ruff invariably one or the other would ask “what are you reading?” In law school Ruff subscribed to the Holly Springs South Reporter which we read avidly (a typical headline “Three Bobcats Felled By Mr. Bumpus”). I remember him delivering to me a biography on Edie Sedgewick, Andy Warhol’s original Superstar, at my office in Chicago because he thought we might have met her at some party or other in Cambridge (unlikely). Roy Blount and I stood up for Ruff at his wedding to Barbara and for years he would send me a copy of Roy’s latest book before I could buy one. Sitting in our kitchen, Ruff introduced me to the best WW I memoir, Sigfried Sassoon’s “The Memoirs of George Sherston” which had been recommended by his friend and neighbor Jody Powell. Not long ago, Ruff told me he was rereading Hemingway, a favorite of both of ours. About a year ago he sent me a CD of Churchill’s wartime speeches and I know this winter he was reading Andrew Roberts’ very long new Churchill biography, which he loved. So as I say goodbye to my old friend, these are some of the memories I will hold dear.
June 4, 2019
I met Ruff as soon as we entered law school, roomed with him for two years, first on Harvard Street and then at Lincoln’s Inn, and have been a close friend ever since. With all the memories, marriage, children, careers, I have been trying to think of some common denominator for all my associations, and came up with reading. Reading everything, newspapers, magazines,, novels, history, biographies. Whenever I talked with Ruff invariably one or the other would ask “what are you reading?” In law school Ruff subscribed to the Holly Springs South Reporter which we read avidly (a typical headline “Three Bobcats party or other in Cambridge (unlikely). Roy Blount and I stood up for Ruff at his wedding to Barbara and for years he would send me a copy of Roy’s latest book before I could buy one. Sitting in our kitchen, Ruff introduced me to the best WW I memoir, Sigfried Sassoon’s “The Memoirs of George Sherston” Felled By Mr. Bumpus”). I remember him delivering to me a biography on Edie Sedgewick, Andy Warhol’s original Superstar, at my office in Chicago because he thought we might have met her at some which had been recommended by his friend and neighbor Jody Powell. Not long ago, Ruff told me he was rereading Hemingway, a favorite of both of ours. About a year ago he sent me a CD of Churchill’s wartime speeches and I know this winter he was reading Andrew Roberts’ very long new Churchill biography, which he loved. So as I say goodby to my old friend, these are some of the memories I will hold dear.
June 4, 2019
I was honored to serve in the Marines with Ruff and for a while in the law business in DC. He was a brilliant lawyer and good citizen. I am sorry for his loss but know he is in a better place.
John M. Dowd
June 2, 2019
Thank you all so much for sharing your kind memories and love. As requested, here are the words I read at my sweet dad’s service:
Good afternoon and welcome.
My name is Delia and I am proud and grateful to be Ruff Fant’s daughter. It’s an honor to be here with you and offer a few remarks about my beloved dad.
As surely you all know, my father was a complete original.
He sang and walked me to sleep in the upstairs hallway as a baby and happily did the same for any child or grandchild anywhere that needed holding, or comfort, or simply the joy of a great song. And they were all unquestionably great songs. Thanks to Ruff, my childhood friends and neighbors, as well as my kiddos and I, still regularly dance in our living rooms to Motown, a healthy dose of Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, and enough Chuck Berry to keep you straight.
By the time I started kindergarten, he had insisted enough times that I could grow up to be whomever I wanted to be, that I knew he was right. Whether the President, or an astronaut, or maybe, even a librarian.
He taught me to love the nightly walk of a devoted dog, to know exactly the right moment to flip the pancakes on the griddle, and how to drive the family station wagon in the driveway at his farm on the Antietam battlefield at thirteen, his red stick-shift Chevy S-10 pickup truck by the following year.
His wisdom, judgement and endless devotion helped us navigate and endure life’s tragedies, as well as recognize and revel in its triumphs. And he had a way of bringing our big, wild family together with joy and
laughter, through good times and bad, with his unparalleled sense of humor and wit, and his ability to spin one helluva a yarn.
Growing up in the Jim Crow segregated South, he understood from the very beginning the great injustice that all folks were not offered the same dignity and opportunity, and bestowed upon us an intimate sense of how love is truly colorblind.
At the same time, he appreciated and loved everything wonderful
June 2, 2019
I got to know Ruff when we entered Harvard Law School in 1963. Along with John Chapman and Ron Borod, we four shared an apartment the following year. There are countless memories of Ruff during our law school time together and the years beyond. One in particular that occurred to me recently makes me smile.
As we were nearing graduation, there was constant talk among classmates about what we were going to do next. I remember being with Ruff and a group of graduates to be, when he was asked, “Ruff, are you going to work in the city next year [New York was the hot choice then]? Ruff responded: “Jackson?”
Spurning all cities, Ruff joined the US Marines and went to Camp Lejeune.
May 31, 2019
May the wind forever blow a gentle benediction over your grave Ruff.
Semper Fi Marine .
May 29, 2019
I first met Ruff when interviewing at Cohen and Uretz. Like many,
I was charmed by his unique sense of humor and great intelligence.
I then worked with him for a little over seven years. In very important
ways he was a mentor to me and always a model of what may be called
the complete lawyer. I followed him in teaching part time at Georgetown.
A few years ago I ran into Ruff at Starbucks, and we had a good long
talk about his recent years. Now that he is gone much earlier than I expected,
I am very thankful that we had that conversation.
May 29, 2019
Mr. "Ruff" Fant was simply a great man with a limitless energy and a profound, deprecating sense of humor. I was fortunate to come into the fold of the Fants at a very early age. I believe I was 2 or 3 when I crawled or stumbled into their backyard at 3210 45th street. Barbara will know the time period exactly, as we were clumsy toddlers, I cannot be sure. James(Jamie) and I have had a life long friendship which I cherish greatly. The two memories I share are ones of the Christmas season.
Christmas Eve. 1979. Jamie and I were eight years old playing a soccer game in the backyard of the Fant home. The day was unusually warm for D. C. that time of year, and completely overcast. The final score would be 25 goals, which I won at 25 to 24. Ruff had been watching us periodically from the garage, kitchen, etc. When the two of us entered the kitchen, he said to us, "Boys, I think you have deserved a REAL eggnog." I slept very well that evening.
There was also a tradition that began in Christmas of 1983. The farm and Christmas Eve dinner at The Bavarian Inn. This tradition lasted for several seasons. In 1983, the first year, Barbara drove Delia and my brother, Christian, to the farm in her green Volvo. Ruff drove Jamie and I in his small, tan Toyota truck. We first stopped for lunch at a Popeye's fried chicken restaurant near Friendship Heights. Ruff watched and smiled as we discussed whose biscuits were better, The Colonel's or Popeye's( I think the Colonel won chicken, but lost on the biscuits.) Once we reached Sharpsburg, MD. Ruff dropped us off at the battlefield museum, which Jamie and I were happy to entertain, both being Civil War students. Later that evening, after a fine dinner at the Inn, we drove home with the guide of candles in the homes of country farm houses leading back to DCA. And then there was the summer of 1981 and Little Switzerland, and so many more fantastic memories. It has been a wonderful experience..
May 27, 2019
I met Ruff in 1985 when I came to the Washington office of Sidley & Austin to work with him in the Firm’s tax group. For more than a decade following that, he was my mentor, teacher and partner. He was a terrifically smart and talented lawyer and was simply one of the most memorable people I have ever known. Practicing law with Ruff was never boring! He brought to the practice of law a keen insight into human nature, a sharp analytical mind and a great sense of humor. Ruff seemed always (or almost always) to enjoy – and to be amused by – life and human foibles. I feel very lucky to have known him.
May 27, 2019
I met Ruff in 2001, just before Henry was born. He and Susan were looking for a “doula” to provide care and support for Henry’s first few weeks. My agency thought I might be a good fit. As he family’s needs changed, Ruff and Susan again and again creatively and generously demonstrated that the “fit” was really an intentional and well-tended embrace.
When Ruff came home, he embraced whatever situation met him. He came in fully present and authentic. He didn’t deny complexity or ambiguity, but cut through trivialities decisively. He seemed to hold outcomes lightly and could employ plan B or C with grace and humor. His confidence was contagious, never condescending. His delight in the presence of his family and close friends brought out the best in everyone.
In 2017 I retired to Arizona, after spending my last months in DC as guests of the Fants. During my last week, Susan was away and Henry and Ruff had come home briefly between their own commitments. One evening, they set aside time to have dinner at home with me. I was charmed and delighted as these two gracious gentlemen included me in their conversation, celebrated our connection, and acknowledged the significance of my transition. I’m so sorry that I’ll never have another chance to sit across the table from Ruff, but I’m looking forward to recognizing resonances of his brilliance when my path crosses Henry’s, Susan’s, or that of anyone who has known him well.
May 27, 2019
Condolences to the Ohana &
Friends of RUFF 😇
He was an inimitable very special
spirit who was always accretive
to all privileged to have known
He was especially proud of his
children and grandchildren: he
loved each of you very much !!!
We had served on the US Navy
Wash. DC Commandant’s Admiral’s Staff together, enjoyed
attending baseball games of
the 1960’s Senators ( Did you
know that Ruff was the team
guru then ? No ? Well neither
did Manager Ted Williams ⚾️👋)
working with mutual friend Tom
Horne whose wife of 47 years
passed last month in Scottsdale
Arizona 😰 and lamenting the
then POTUS ...
Indeed a very gentle gracious
giant RUFF FANT has blessed
us all and endowed the world
with a legacy of love for wisdom
Aloha 🙏 All always ..,
Jack J. C. Peters
1 808 203 7771
May 26, 2019
I met Ruff in the summer of 1958 when we both went to Boys’ State at Hinds Junior College in Raymond, Mississippi, and yes, that really is a place. Then, when Janet and I and the children moved to Washington in 1986, Ruff and I renewed our friendship through a lovely dinner at his house, numerous lunches and not a few political fundraisers. Our wonderful mutual friend Hubert McAlexander brought us together at various social functions several times after I left Washington, and visiting with Ruff was always the highlight of those occasions. Ruff was truly an extraordinary lawyer, but even more, he was an extraordinary human being who was endowed with that wonderful ability to make you feel when you talked with him that you were one of the most important people in his life. Ruff, all of the Povalls truly loved you, and we are all so sad, for you left us too soon.
May 26, 2019
the first time i met ruff, i was a character in a 3 scene, 4 page play he'd written about the vicissitudes of southern plantation ownership. it was maybe january in the early 1990s. we were on a house party with kate and tod sedgwick at mill pond plantation.
the play, brief as it was, had all the elements of the real suspense playing out at Mill Pond at the time: evil overseer, absentee owner, and possible villain considering the purchase of the plantation. the setting was gone-with-the-windesque. characters the usual suspects: nan/jody powell, joe/lucia henderson, kitty/me. the cast thought the play was an enormous success. it was classic ruff: he had captured the complexity of the situation, simplified it to the important components, transformed it to a ridiculous setting, and imbued it with his wonderful, and under appreciated, sense of humor. jody and i found it funny enough to toast ruff with glasses of bourbon for the rest of the evening.
May 26, 2019
Ruff was both a mentor and a dear friend. He had a way of making tax law amusing. He saw through the practical consequences and silliness of some rules and procedures. Listening to Ruff was a bit like listening to Stephen Colbert’s delivery of the news of the day - accurate, insightful and entertaining. And then there was his wonderful smile and twinkle in his eyes! Although Ruff was a demanding teacher, he was always very kind. He was so devoted to Susan and his children. He will be sorely missed and often remembered.
May 26, 2019
I worked with Ruff for 4-5 years in the 80's and always knew he was a brilliant lawyer. In particular, he had an amazing ability in negotiating sessions on behalf of his client with the other side and their counsel to present his client's position in a very direct but also amicable manner in a way that it was almost always favorably received-a considerable negotiating skill.
Ruff and I lost touch for more than 20 years and re-connected the past few years as we each had a son at Sidwell; here I saw a different side of Ruff. Over these few years we got together for breakfast 6 or 7 times and sat together a few times at Sidwell events; no matter how each conversation started, Ruff always liked to spend the bulk of the time talking about his family--each of his children. It was clear to me how important they were to him; how much he loved each one of them; and how proud he was of them.
May 25, 2019
I am very sorry to learn of Ruff Fant’s death. My deepest condolences go to James, Delia and the whole Fant family. My mother Diane loved to tell the story of when she had a catered 40th birthday party for herself and curry was served, which was perhaps a little international for the 1980s. One woman on hearing Ruff’s Holly Springs, Mississippi accent asked, “When did YOU first eat curry?”, perhaps expecting this to be his first time. “Oh, at 3 or 4,” he replied, “after my father returned from having his ship torpedoed and sunk in the Indian Ocean during WWII.”
May 25, 2019
I am very sorry to learn that Mr. Ruff Fant has passed away. Ruff is one of the most valued friends of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University. He worked very hard to promote the friendship and cooperation between our two countries. Especially with his great efforts, the Center for American Studies was founded at Fudan in the 1980s.
Today the Center has emerged as one of the most influential research institutes in China.
We highly appreciate Mr. Fant’s farsightedness and endeavor. I am sure he will always be remembered at Fudan University for his great contribution.
Please allow me on behalf of the Center to express my deep condolences to his family and to wish you all the best.
Sincerely yours, Wu Xinbo
Professor and Director, Center for American Studies, Fudan University
Shanghai, P. R. China
May 24, 2019
Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the Fant family during this time of great loss. Cherish the memories and honor his legacy by living your life filled with gratitude and love. We are truly sorry....
Barbara G Fant
May 24, 2019
Thanks so much, Roger. Ruff was a simply brilliant trial lawyer, after having graduated first in his class from U.S. Naval Justice School in RI, the summer of 1967. The first time I heard him argue a case at Camp Lejeune, NC, where he served as a prosecutor in the USMC 2d Mar Div JAG office from late summer 1967 to April 1968, my jaw dropped. He was so good that instead of being sent to Vietnam for his “second tour,” he was transferred to the U.S. Court of Military Appeals’ Naval Appellate Review Activity in the Washington Navy Yard.
As we know, criminal trial work is not as remunerative as corporate law practice, nor is the defense of government regulations... So, following his honorable discharge from active duty and a year’s break in a start-up enterprise on Capitol Hill, Ruff joined Sheldon Cohen (LBJ’s Commissioner of Internal Revenue) and Lester Uretz’s federal tax law firm. There he practiced with Roger Pies, Henry Zapruder, Stuart Siegel, et al. (Ruff’s experience at Harvard Law School had included drafting a new edition of Dean Erwin Griswold’s (“the Griz”s) federal tax textbook.)
This is a wonderful platform for funny, poignant, admiring, self-deprecating Ruff Fant stories, because they will be kept online in perpetuity by Legacy.com. So please join in as you think of any that you know.
May 24, 2019
Ruff Fant was a brilliant attorney and a good friend. I practiced law with him for many years and we worked several cases together. He was incredibly smart, and very practical at the same time. Which is not common. I could give many "war stories" about the things we worked on, but they may not have general appeal. Here is one.
We were arguing a case in the Claims Court and there was an oral argument. The case involved a Treasury Regulation that was written to patch a hole in the statute. We needed to overturn the Regulation. The Government lawyer was young and somewhat inexperienced. We had won below, so the Government got to go first. His first words were that "Plaintiff is lucky because they have good facts."
When Ruff got up he responded: "Plaintiff does not feel lucky. The Government has his money, and won't give it back!" I saw the Judges smile, and I knew we were headed for a good outcome.
But there were dozens of times when his insight and his ability to understand complexity, but reduce it to simple terms was simply marvelous.