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Lindley Estes is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Lindley Estes.

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Prominent Fredericksburg attorney retiring

Russ Roberts and his longtime assistant, Kay Collie, pack up his law office along Princess Anne Street on Tuesday. Both are retiring. (Photos by Peter Cihelka/The Free Lance-Star -- click for larger images)

Thursday marks the official end of a decorated local law career that has spanned almost a half-century.

Russ Roberts, who has practiced law in the Fredericksburg area since June 1963, is retiring and moving out of his firm’s downtown office. But don’t expect Roberts to spend his retirement years idly.

Roberts plans to keep his law license current and continue to do occasional legal work for his existing clients. He also plans to volunteer with the Community Foundation of the Rappahannock River Region, the University of Mary Washington, St. George’s Episcopal Church and other organizations.

“There’s plenty for me to do,” Roberts said.

That Roberts will stay busy in retirement should come as no surprise to those who have known him during his long legal career. Roberts has held many leadership positions with numerous law organizations including stints as president of the Fredericksburg Area Bar Association, Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys and Association of Defense Trial Attorneys. He was selected as a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a prestigious designation given to few attorneys.

Colleagues have described Roberts as an attorney who worked relentlessly for his clients. That is reflected in the advice he would give to young attorneys.

“It’s not about you,” Roberts said. “It’s about your clients.”

Roberts—whose childhood included stints in Kentucky, Cuba and Florida—ended up in Fredericksburg due to an encounter in the summer of 1958 made during a lifeguard job at the Fredericksburg Country Club. Then an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, Roberts met his wife of 52 years, the woman formerly named Martha Young. They have two adult children.

Martha Young’s family was friends with local attorney James Ashby Jr. Roberts and Ashby got to know each other through various social occasions in Fredericksburg. When Roberts finished law school at U.Va. in 1963, Ashby offered him a position at his law firm.

“And I’ve never looked back,” Roberts said.

Over the years Roberts has been a partner at a number of local law firms. Before setting out on his own in 2004, he was with the firm now known as Parrish, Houck & Snead, PLC. That firm will soon renovate the entire second floor of The Law Building at 910 Princess Anne St., where Roberts and his longtime assistant, Kay Collie, have an office suite now. Parrish, Houck & Snead hopes to move to the space from its Kenmore Avenue office late this summer.

Jennifer Parrish, senior partner and firm manager at Parrish, Houck & Snead, joined Roberts’ practice in 1990 after getting her law degree from U.Va. and worked with him for 14 years. She described Roberts as a good teacher and reasonable attorney who could see both sides of an argument.

“He was an excellent mentor,” Parrish said. “That’s significant in the practice of law.”

Roberts focused mostly on civil defense during his career. His clients have included a long list of insurance companies, banks, foundations, individuals and more. He was the longtime attorney for The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co.

Roberts, who will turn 75 this year, does plan some down time in his retirement, including a good bit of fishing and bicycle-riding. He and his wife plan to spend winters at their home in Key Largo, Fla. But the rest of the year they will be at their Kenmore Avenue home in Fredericksburg.

“This town has been very good to me,” Roberts said.