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Frederic L. Ballard, 72, attorney

Frederic L. "Rick" Ballard Jr., 72, of Bethesda, Md., who played a pivotal role in transforming his great-grandfather's small law office into Ballard Spahr, a national firm of more than 500 lawyers, died Sunday, May 11, of lung cancer at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington.

Frederic L. Ballard Jr.
Frederic L. Ballard Jr.Read more

Frederic L. "Rick" Ballard Jr., 72, of Bethesda, Md., who played a pivotal role in transforming his great-grandfather's small law office into Ballard Spahr, a national firm of more than 500 lawyers, died Sunday, May 11, of lung cancer at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington.

A member of a prominent Philadelphia family known for its civic-mindedness, Mr. Ballard graduated from Harvard Law School and became one of the nation's first public finance lawyers specializing in the nascent field of bond law.

Mr. Ballard had been undergoing treatment for lung cancer, but his death was unexpected and came as a blow to his loved ones and to colleagues at Ballard Spahr.

In an e-mail Sunday, Ballard Spahr chair Mark Stewart told colleagues of Mr. Ballard's death, saying, "I could sit here for hours and still not have the words to adequately describe Rick's importance to the firm, his achievements as a lawyer, and his impact on those of us who were lucky enough to know him.

"Rick is what every lawyer should want to be - fiercely smart, caring, a gentleman," Mr. Stewart said.

Mr. Ballard was the recipient of the National Association of Bond Lawyers Bernard P. Friel Medal for Service in Public Finance in 2005 and the Frederick O. Kiel Distinguished Service Award in 2007, making him one of the few people to win both.

During the ceremony for the Friel Award, attorney and presenter Robert Dean Pope remarked only half-humorously, "I believe that we all agree that Rick Ballard has done more than any other person in the history of Western civilization to educate the Treasury Department and the IRS about the law and regulations affecting tax-exempt bonds."

Born and raised in Chestnut Hill, Mr. Ballard graduated from Harvard College and received his law degree from Harvard Law School. He joined Ballard Spahr in Philadelphia as an associate in 1966 and became a partner seven years later, following his father and grandfather - both named Frederic L. Ballard - into the firm founded in the late 1800s by his great-grandfather Ellis Ames Ballard.

In 1978, Mr. Ballard moved to Washington to open the firm's first office outside Philadelphia.

His wife, Marion, said they had planned to be in Washington for just two years, long enough to get the office up and running, before returning to Philadelphia.

"At the end of two years, the office was doing OK, but they needed Rick to stay," she said.

Mr. Ballard served as managing partner of the Washington office from 1978 to 1995. He chaired the public finance department from 1995 to 2000, and the financial planning and management department from 2000 to 2006.

At the time of his death, he was head of Ballard's tax group and exempt organizations group. As was his wish, he maintained an active practice until the time of his death.

Mr. Ballard was the author of ABCs of Arbitrage: Tax Rules for Investment of Bond Proceeds by Municipalities, a seminal reference work originally published in 1978 and used by public officials, municipal bond attorneys, and investment bankers.

He represented government agencies, investment banks, nonprofits, and other borrowers of tax-exempt bonds, and played a leading role in the bond financings of some of the nation's largest public buildings, including the International Airport and the Convention Center in Philadelphia.

A master at translating arcane legal language into terms everyone could understand, Mr. Ballard was the former vice chair of the American Bar Association's section on state and governmental law, the former director of the American College of Bond Counsel, and the former chair of the American College of Tax Counsel.

Mr. Ballard was also known for his community service, especially along with his wife as a supporter of women's issues. The two received the first Visionary Award from the Washington Area Women's Foundation in 2013 for their longtime service to the organization leading fund-raising campaigns.

In his advocacy on behalf of women, he followed in the footsteps of his mother, Ernesta Drinker Ballard, who founded the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women and cofounded Women's Way.

"He encouraged me and all the women in his life to be everything they could be," his wife said.

He was a former trustee of Chestnut Hill Academy, where he attended elementary and high school, and Springside Chestnut Hill Corp., both in Philadelphia.

Mr. Ballard had a wonderful understanding of literature and the arts, his wife said, and enjoyed his role as both producer and actor in a play-reading group to which the couple belonged.

When it was Mr. Ballard's turn to serve as producer, he would spend hours online, finding just the right play for the group to read.

Above all, Mr. Ballard was the consummate gentleman, possessing a gentleness of spirit to balance his accomplishments. He was known for treating everyone, from the newest associate to the highest-ranking government official, with warmth and friendliness.

"He had a way of making everyone feel comfortable," said Joe Fanone, managing partner of Ballard's Washington office.

In addition to his wife of 39 years, Mr. Ballard is survived by a daughter, Annie; stepsons William and Robert Dunning; three sisters; and two grandchildren.

Plans for a service to celebrate Mr. Ballard's life were pending.

Donations may be made to the Washington Area Women's Foundation, 1331 H St. N.W., Suite 1000, Washington, D.C. 20005.