Friends, family remember attorney Doug Arthur
Doug Arthur, a prominent lawyer who served as town attorney for Mount Jackson and Strasburg and who chaired the boards of several community organizations, died Thursday following an illness. He was 74.
He is survived by Suzanne Arthur, his wife of more than 50 years, and two children; son Clay Arthur and his daughter, Hanna Arthur, daughter Sarah Brown and her three children, Lydia, Anna and Henry.
Clay Arthur said he will remember his father’s fairness and level headedness.
“Dad was a really good communicator,” Clay Arthur said. “One of the things I loved about dad was that he knew when he needed discipline and knew when he needed to bring compassion and he was really good at balancing those, not just with his clients but with his family as well. He was a smart guy who knew the value of talking things out. … Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we can’t like each other. That was one of the things he said to me all the time. He used to talk about that a lot.”
Doug Arthur was also a well-known musician in the area and was one of the founding members of Five of a Kind, a popular area bluegrass band in its day. His love of music was passed on to his son, who operates a guitar shop in town.
“I started playing the bass early on because of him,” Clay Arthur said. “He was super passionate about music. He started when he was very young.”
Clay Arthur also said that his father’s even-keeled nature left an impression on him.
“He said that life is like a pendulum and sometimes it will swing way to left and way to the right, not about politics but about life,” Clay Arthur said. “If we could just try to live somewhere in the middle and not live on either extreme. He taught me to live life where the pendulum was in the middle and not swing from one extreme to the other. Live life in balance.”
Sarah Brown said that when she needed him, her dad was there with good advice and his trademark patient and fair disposition.
“As a parent he was definitely a softie and very playful,” Brown stated in an email Friday. “I had a hard time with transitions as a kid, and I remember countless hours Dad spent with me outside the elementary school classroom patiently helping me pull myself together to walk inside. He spent countless hours on the phone with me calming me down. Growing up he played music for me almost every night and always wanted me to sing with him.”
Doug Arthur tried to impart on his children the same kind of fairness and assumption of the best in people that served him so well in his professional life.
“Dad showed me through example how to be non-judgmental and to treat everyone from all walks of life with kindness and compassion,” Brown stated. “I learned from him that the best way to have a good conversation was to ask people questions and to really listen to their responses. I learned to not make a decision that would affect others until I had been sure to put myself in their shoes.”
Strasburg Mayor Rich Orndorff said that Arthur mentored him during his first foray into politics in the early 2000s and counseled him during his May mayoral campaign.
“I’m very saddened by Doug’s passing but what Doug and Suzanne meant to the community and what they mean to the community is what we really think about,” Orndorff said. “I’m just deeply saddened. … As the years pass, people do too. You lose those people that have been the heart of your community for so many years. Other people come along but Doug leaves big shoes to fill. I respected him and he was truly one of those Southern gentlemen that you come to know and respect in your community.”
Doug Arthur was born in Standardsville and raised in Strasburg. He retired from law in July.
During his time in Strasburg, he wore many hats. He served as president of the Strasburg Chamber of Commerce and as board member for the Strasburg Museum, Strasburg Community Library and Belle Grove, among others. He was town attorney for Strasburg for 36 years.
Doug Arthur served his country, serving two years with the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Long Binh in Vietnam between 1968 and 1970.
After his military service, prior to which he received law degrees from Virginia Tech and Washington and Lee, he began his law practice, Douglas C. Arthur, Attorney at Law. He settled roughly 17,000 cases during his legal career, said longtime assistant Rhonda Sager, who shared an office with Arthur for 17 years.
“I’ve known of him practically all the time that I’ve been in Strasburg,” Sager said. “Even in my teen years I knew who he was.”
She said Doug Arthur was a “very good, all-around guy that is well loved and respected in the community in all the different organizations and boards on which he served. Everybody had the same opinion of him.”
He was also chairman of the board for First Bank and First National Corporation in addition to serving as vice chairman of the board and lead director of the Board of Shenandoah Telecommunications Company in Edinburg.
Attorney Doug McCarthy, founding partner and CEO of McCarthy and Akers, with whom Doug Arthur practiced since April before his July retirement, had high praise, calling him the most gentlemanly lawyers he has practiced with. “That is rare to see nowadays,” he said.
McCarthy noted that Arthur was everything a lawyer should be, an Atticus Finch-type concerned not for the contents of his pockets but for the well-being of his community.
“Doug exemplified helping the community. The community relied on him as a sort of safety net.” McCarthy said. “We try to find solutions and not just pick fights and we knew that Doug was that kind of attorney. … What has happened with the advent of legal shows on television and the larger metropolises enclosing on the valley, things tend to get lost in technicalities instead of finding common ground. He was so integral to Strasburg and that community. He was so involved and people knew he cared about them and was practicing law to help the community.”
Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction: The name of one of Doug Arthur’s granddaughters was not included in the original story. The story has been corrected.