Charles Nevett Steele of Markham, Va., a longtime public-interest lawyer, a conservationist, and a member of Noble Stables with his wife, Helen, died at home on Dec. 4 from complications following surgery. He was 80.
He was known for his combination of striking looks, sharp intellect, dry wit, and modest demeanor. He was self-confident and hardworking, yet low-keyed and welcoming with colleagues and friends, with whom he shared a lifetime of loyalty and very good times.
He was born June 21, 1939, in New York City to J. Murray Steele and Sylvia Ward Steele. He graduated from Harvard College in 1960 and Harvard Law School in 1965.
After law school Charlie began his career in public service. He was a staff attorney with the Appellate Court Branch of the National Labor Relations Board from 1965-75. He then served at the Federal Elections Commission as associate general counsel for enforcement and litigation from 1976-79, and as general counsel between 1979-87. He argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including ones concerning the constitutionality of laws limiting campaign spending by various types of organizations.
He left the FEC to become general counsel of Conservation International, and in 1990 came to Fauquier County, Va., as county attorney. In 1991 he went to work in the administration of newly elected Gov. William F. Weld of Massachusetts, serving there and in Washington until 1997.
An avid outdoorsman, he traveled widely, consulted on conservation projects globally, and carefully managed the woodlands at his Markham home. He was a birdwatcher, fisherman, tennis player, and golfer.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two granddaughters, Emma Bruce and Helen Livingston (Livvie) Steele-Smith. He also leaves his son-in-law, Gerald (Jerry) Smith of Oakland, and sister, Lucy Anne Steele, of Orient, N.Y. His daughter, Helen Livingston (Haley) Steele, and his brother, John, predeceased him.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 4, at Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains, Va. In lieu of flowers, donations in his name may be made to the American Bird Conservancy in The Plains, Va. Moser Funeral Home handled arrangements.