Robert R. Batt, 93, highly regarded tax lawyer

RobertR. Batt
RobertR. Batt
Posted: April 08, 2013

Robert R. Batt, 93, the ultimate tax lawyer who spent his entire career at Ballard Spahr, serving as managing partner and head of its tax practice, died of cancer Tuesday, April 2, at Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Mr. Batt joined the Philadelphia law firm in 1948, fresh out of Harvard Law School, after obtaining his bachelor's in history and English literature from Harvard.

His keen intellect and deft people skills, immediately spotted by those around him, catapulted Mr. Batt to prominence as the unofficial dean of the state and local tax bar in Pennsylvania, and helped raise the firm's profile.

He was often asked by state elected officials to provide tax advice. "He was effortlessly brilliant," partner Reggie Thomas said.

"No one could hold a candle to him," said retired partner Bob McQuiston, who succeeded Mr. Batt as head of the firm's tax practice. "And he wrote briefs that dazzled everyone."

As managing partner of Ballard Spahr in the mid-1970s, Mr. Batt won the partners' confidence with his sure handling of thorny economic issues.

"He was a very good man to have in charge," said retired partner Francis Ballard. "He was liked and respected by all the lawyers, and he loved his work with the firm."

When Mr. Batt finally retired, in February 2005, he wrote a lighthearted note to then-chairman Arthur Makadon:

"Having worked 13 years past my official (deferred) retirement date, I think the time has long-since come for me to hang up my spurs. For the record, therefore, I quit. It has been fun, and I can't say I won't miss it, but enough is enough."

He was 85 years old.

Makadon responded: "You are unbelievable and the person we all aspire to be."

At lunch with friends, Mr. Batt preferred to talk about things other than law. The conversation would turn to art, music, history, travel, skiing, and Mr. Batt's sailing adventures off the coast of Maine, where he and Mona, his wife of 64 years, had a second home.

They met at a Christmas party. She was a native of Sweden, and Mr. Batt grew to love her home country, where they visited family and friends.

"He was a multifaceted man," his wife said. "He loved poetry and theater, he played the accordion and piano, he was interested in history, literature, and, especially, Shakespeare."

The son of Ruby and William L. Batt Sr., he was born and raised in Montclair, N.J. At age 14, he moved with his family to Philadelphia so his father could head up SKF Bearings; his father was later recruited to work in the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The younger Mr. Batt graduated from Penn Charter Academy and served as an Army artilleryman during World War II.

After starting a family, he lived at various places on the Main Line before moving in 2007 to Waverly Heights, a senior community in Gladwyne.

In retirement, Mr. Batt pursued many interests. He traveled to Sweden and France, sailed, and kept in touch with friends and former colleagues. He enjoyed Philadelphia's cultural offerings including events at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and Philadelphia Orchestra concerts.

Surviving, in addition to his wife, are a son, Robert R. Jr.; daughters Christina Batt and Loren Batt-Kohn; five grandsons; and a great-granddaughter.

A life celebration will be held 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, April 12, at the Merion Cricket Club, 325 Montgomery Ave., Haverford. Interment is private.

Contributions may be made to the University of Pennsylvania Museum via www.penn.museum or the American Cancer Society via www.cancer.org.

Condolences to the family may be offered at www.stuardfuneralhome.com.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook

at 215-854-2611 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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