James Richard Taft, “Dick,” of Cabin John, died on July 6 at his beloved cabin on the Chesapeake Bay in Lusby. He was 86. Born and raised in New York City, Dick made Washington his home after moving here in the ‘50s to launch what later became known as the Foundation Center.
He subsequently founded the Taft Group, which evolved into a major publishing enterprise, producing leading newsletters, books and annual directories covering the philanthropy industry. Dick eventually spun off the information and publishing business and founded the Taft Organization, which advised museums, universities, health care organizations, environmental groups and other nonprofit clients on how to raise money and create institutional monuments in support of their long-term strategic goals.
He was a key adviser to the Smithsonian Institution in launching iconic D.C. museums including the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum and The Marine Corps Heritage Center. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Dick also studied piano at The Juilliard School in New York City.
Dick is survived by his life partner of nearly 40 years, Shelley Rae Rudick; his children, Michael, Gabrielle (Neil Jensen), Jesse (Hellie Priester) and Marielle; grandchildren, Eli, Lucas and Maia Jensen; and brother, Earl Taft (Hessie) and their children. Donations may be made to The Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States and The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.