Robert R. Bair, a retired lawyer and former Venable LLP partner

Robert R. Bair, a retired lawyer and former Venable LLP partner
Robert R. Bair was a longtime partner at Venable LLP and had been an assistant U.S. Attorney for Maryland. (Handout)

Robert R. Bair, a retired attorney and former partner in what is now Venable LLP, died of heart failure on March 27 at the Blakehurst Retirement Community in Towson.

The longtime Ruxton resident was 92.


"Bob Bair was a lawyer of the old school. He was gentlemanly and polite, and viewed the law as a valued profession," said George W. Johnston, who retired in 2015 as chief operating officer at Venable, where he worked 40 years and was a partner.

"He strove to understand and execute his clients' needs," said Mr. Johnson. "When I came here as a young man out of college, he made me feel welcome and at home, and when I was a summer research assistant, he was very helpful to me. He was a lovely, lovely man."

Mr. Bair was born Robert Rippel in New London, Conn., and attended the Scotland School for Veterans in Scotland, Pa., from 1936 to 1940.

He was orphaned at age 11, and adopted in 1940 by Bruce and Alga Bair. He was raised in Annapolis and Westminster, and graduated in 1943 from Westminster High School.

He attended the Johns Hopkins University from 1943 to 1944, then transferred to Brown University, where he was a 1947 summa cum laude Phi Beta Kappa graduate. He was a 1950 graduate of Harvard Law School.

While at Brown, Mr. Bair joined the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps and attained the rank of lieutenant. From 1950 to 1965, he was assigned to the Volunteer Supply Corps Unit 5 in Baltimore.

From 1950 to 1951, he clerked for Judge Morris A. Soper of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

He was named an associate in 1951 at what was then Venable, Baetjer and Howard.

He also served as assistant U.S. attorney for Maryland from 1954 to 1956.

His legal expertise was trusts and estates, estate and tax planning and public utility law. He was named a partner at Venable in 1960, a position he held for 50 years, and was senior counsel in 1991 in the firm's business division. He retired in 2001.

Jeffrey K. Gonya, partner in charge of Venable's wealth and tax planning practice, was a colleague and longtime friend of Mr. Bair, and recalled him as "a very kind man and very patient with younger lawyers. He was a very smart lawyer and a gentleman, always."

"He was also careful in what he said to others," Mr. Gonya said. "He was a good role model and was great to work with."

Mr. Bair was a member of the American Bar Association, the Maryland State Bar Association and the Bar Association of Baltimore City.

He was also a fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the Maryland Bar Foundation, and a member of the American Judicature Society, the Supreme Court Historical Society and the Baltimore Association of Tax Counsel.


He was also a member of the Estate and Trust Law section counsel of the Maryland State Bar Association, and served as its chairman from 1980 to 1981. He also served on the association's board of governors from 1976 to 1978.

In 1967, Mr. Bair wrote "The Trials of Mr. Justice Samuel Chase," for the Maryland Law Review, and in 1976 he wrote "Demands of the Judiciary Upon the President and the Separation of Powers" for the Maryland Bar Journal.

He taught basic estate planning at the Renaissance Institute at Notre Dame of Maryland University, and conducted a lecture series at Blakehurst, where he also led the Maryland Continuing Care Residents Association.

A longtime resident of Malvern Avenue in Ruxton, Mr. Bair had served on the boards of Citizens and Planning and Housing Association and the Ruxton-Riderwood-Lake Roland Improvement Association.

He had been a member and board member of the L'Hirondelle Club and also a member of the Country Club of Maryland.

He enjoyed playing golf, played tennis into his 70s and skied into his 80s. He was also an accomplished watercolor artist and a pianist.

His wife of 60 years, the former Dorothy Dorsey, died in 2017.

Mr. Bair was a longtime communicant and vestryman of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. A memorial service for him will be held at 1 p.m. April 20 at his church, Carrollton and Boyce avenues, Ruxton.

He is survived by three daughters, Roberta B. Watts of Pasadena, Bettie Pomeroy of Wilson, Wyo., and Louisa Bair of Charlottesville, Va.; and four grandchildren.

NOTE: An earlier version of this article misstated the first name of Mr. Bair's wife. It has been corrected here.