Obituary: James Frazier Fort

Obituary: James Frazier Fort

James Frazier Fort, Sr. of Charlottesville and Madison, Va., died Aug. 4 of renal cell carcinoma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was a resident of Westminster Canterbury of the Blue Ridge in Charlottesville and a farm outside Madison, near Etlan.

Jim Fort was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1925 and grew up on Lookout Mountain. He graduated from Chattanooga High School in 1943. He was the son of John Porter Fort and Louise Frazier Fort. His maternal grandfather, James B. Frazier, served as Democratic Governor of Tennessee and a U.S. Senator (D-TN).

Mr. Fort’s parents were journalists. His mother was a reporter and society columnist for the Chattanooga News (now known as the Times-Free Press). His father wrote several successful novels and covered the legendary Scopes "Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tenn. in 1925 for the Chattanooga News, at which time he became a good friend of Chicago defense attorney and progressive champion Clarence Darrow. During that trial, Clarence Darrow was Mr. Fort’s parents’ houseguest, while prosecuting attorney William Jennings Bryan was the houseguest of his grandparents.

Mr. Fort entered the U.S. Army at age 18 and served in the Pacific during World War II, earning the rank of Captain. A marksman, he was a machine gun instructor stateside, before he shipped out to the Philippines. He completed his service in Korea, where he was also a Major in the Korean Constabulary.

After his military service, Mr. Fort attended the University of Georgia. A lifelong lover of the theater, he met his future wife, Catherine Foard backstage during a student production. Jim was in the cast and Cathy was on the scenic crew.

After graduating from UGA, Mr. Fort attended law school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. While obtaining for his law degree, he worked on the presidential campaign of fellow Tennessean and family friend Estes Kefauver, and for his uncle, U.S. Rep. James B. Frazier, Jr.

After passing the bar, Mr. Fort proposed marriage to Miss Foard, who was then living in New York City. They married in 1950 and settled in Alexandria. Their first apartment was in Parkfairfax.

Jim accepted a position as national legislative council with the American Trucking Association, where he successfully worked on obtaining approval for "piggyback" truck transport (the precursor to container shipping) and many other complex national transportation issues.

As the family grew, the Forts moved to Virginia Avenue in Alexandria. In 1965, they moved just outside the Beltway to Wilton Woods. Mr. Fort was very active in Fairfax County Democratic politics.

In 1967, Mr. Fort joined United Parcel Service as a national legislative counsel. He traveled extensively for UPS to obtain approval for interstate parcel delivery in all 50 states, building the national infrastructure that UPS uses today. Throughout his long and distinguished career as a Capitol Hill lobbyist, Mr. Fort was well known and respected for his honesty and integrity.

Jim was a progressive Democrat and a liberal Episcopalian. He attended Immanuel Church on the Hill in Alexandria, where he was a deacon and served on the vestry for many years.

In the early 1960s, Mr. Fort developed a love of wood sculpture, an art that he enjoyed for the rest of his life. He trained, sculpted and exhibited at The Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, The Middle Street Gallery in Little Washington, and worked in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

In 1984, Mr. Fort retired, and in 1990 moved from Alexandria to his beloved Hidden Valley Farm in Madison County, Va. He taught grassroots lobbying at George Washington University, and continued to be very involved in community affairs, and in state and local politics. Jim and Cathy also traveled extensively, visiting over forty countries around the world, from Ireland to India, China, Tibet, Eritrea, and many spots "off the beaten path".

He served on the board of the Piedmont Environmental Council for many years, as a founding director of the Blue Ridge Foothills Conservancy, as well as on the boards of several nonprofit service organizations in Madison, Alexandria and Washington, D.C. A lifelong progressive Democrat, he remained politically active all his days.

Mr. Fort is survived by his wife of 56 years, Cathy Fort, and by his three children James Jr. of Arlington, Va., Keith of Chicago and Catherine Johnston of Falls Church. Jim and Cathy also have three grandchildren and many nieces, nephews, and close cousins.

The family will receive friends on Thursday, Aug. 9, from 6-8 p.m., at Preddy Funeral Home in Madison, Va.. Services will be held on Friday, Aug. 10, at 11 a.m., at Piedmont Episcopal Church in Madison (

In lieu of flowers, donations in Mr. Fort’s memory may be made to the Piedmont Environmental Council (, or 540-347-2334), or to the Blue Ridge Foothills Conservancy (, or 540-923-9980).