David H. Semmes, a well-known member of the Virginia steeplechasing and fox-hunting community, died Jan. 1 at his Indian Run Farm in Flint Hill, Va. He was 86.
The former longtime master of the Old Dominion Hounds, he was a National Steeplechase Association member and licensed owner since 1996.
Born in Washington, D.C., he was the son of Harry Hodges Semmes, a prominent patent attorney who served in both world wars and rose to the rank of brigadier general. A Princeton University graduate, David Semmes practiced intellectual-property law for 41 years and was best known for the patent work on the “black-box” data and voice recorders used on commercial aircraft around the world. He also performed the patent work on the technology used for jockeys’ protective vests.
An amateur jockey, he rode more than 100 races between 1969 and 1986, chiefly in the competitive Seven Corners owner-rider timber series. He was selected for the Francis Thornton Greene Award in 2008 for his years of volunteer service to the industry.
His wife of 59 years, Dudley Nicolson Semmes, died in 2009. He is survived by two daughters, Deryn Semmes of Flint Hill and Stratton Semmes of Atascadero, Calif., and two grandchildren. Son David Gibson Semmes predeceased him, as did brothers Harry, master of Maryland’s Potomac Hunt who died last summer; Raphael; and Gibson.