Sidney Buford Scott, a titan in the business world who helped build the financial brokerage Scott & Stringfellow into a regional powerhouse and was a leader in the Richmond area’s philanthropic community, died Monday in Richmond.
Known for wearing colorful bow ties, the 86-year-old began working at his family’s Scott & Stringfellow brokerage in 1958 and served as chairman of what is now Richmond-based BB&T Scott & Stringfellow from 1974 until last year when he became chairman emeritus.
Mr. Scott continued to work at the firm’s downtown Richmond office five days a week — and sometimes on Saturdays — until recently, working at the same roll-top desk that belonged to his grandfather, Frederic W. Scott, who co-founded the firm with Charles S. Stringfellow in 1893. The firm was sold to BB&T Corp. in 1999.
Nearly three years ago when Mr. Scott was inducted into the RTD’s Person of the Year Hall of Fame in recognition of his lifetime of achievements, he said he had no plans to retire. “I don’t know the meaning of the word,” he said at the time.
Mr. Scott died after a brief illness in the past month. He and his family — his wife of nearly 60 years, their three children, some of their nine grandchildren and others — spent the weekend at the family retreat in Nelson County. He wasn’t feeling well early on Monday morning, so they returned to Richmond, where he died.
“The business community has lost a great leader. He certainly was a giant during the last 50 years in the history of Richmond businesses,” said J. Alfred Broaddus Jr., former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond who served with Mr. Scott for several years on the board of the Virginia Council on Economic Education.
“He made such great contributions over the last several decades that he will sorely be missed,” Broaddus said.
Mr. Scott touched many lives and has never looked for accolades, said John Sherman Jr., who worked with Mr. Scott for 30 years and was president and CEO of Scott & Stringfellow from 1996 to 2002.
“He just felt strongly in making the world a better place to live,” Sherman said. “Buford just believed so much that it was a joy to give back to his fellow man and to be part of the Richmond community he loved so much.”
Once, while playing racquetball — Mr. Scott was very competitive, his friends and business associates said — Sherman asked him if he ever got depressed. “He put his hand on his heart and said, ‘I have too many blessings to ever get depressed,’” Sherman said.
Sherman and others described Mr. Scott as a true servant leader in playing critical roles in countless charitable causes over the decades — many of them focused on youth and education.
At the top of his list was Elk Hill Farm, a Goochland County-based organization that provides education and residential programs for children who need to be removed from their families and/or schools.
Mr. Scott helped start the program in 1970 by donating the family farm to the organization. It now serves about 700 children annually with six sites in Virginia and a $12 million annual budget.
“When they arrive, they think they are born losers. When they leave, they think they are born winners,” Scott said for an article in 2016 when he was named one of the 30 people who had shaped the Richmond region in the past 30 years. The recognition was part of the celebration for the 30th anniversary of the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Metro Business section.
Elk Hill Farm was Mr. Scott’s vision and he had been very involved in the organization since the beginning, said Michael Farley, who joined Elk Hill 39 years ago and became its executive director in 1999 and CEO in 2012.
“He was such a unique human being,” Farley said. “When I think of empathy, humility and courage, he resonated in all three of those qualities. We all lost a great man. He was an extraordinary person. His faith became the values of the organization and what we try to instill in the children we work with.”
Mr. Scott, who served on the board and was chairman emeritus, was so committed to Elk Hill Farm that last week his assistant sent a note saying he would continue on the board for another three-year term, Farley said.
A courtly man and always the consummate gentleman, Mr. Scott was known for his personable nature, positive outlook and humble behavior, said Walter S. Robertson III, managing director at Henrico County-based Lowe, Brockenbrough & Co. who was CEO of Scott & Stringfellow from 2002 to 2009.
“He was a gentleman and a gentle man,” Robertson said. “He was both. He had a lot of goodness in him. But he was very modest. He had a perch in the community where he could make things happen for the positive and he really did.”
Mr. Scott, who was active in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, initially wanted to become an Episcopal priest, but he was advised by his spiritual mentor that the church needed good laypeople as much as it needed priests.
His stature in the community allowed him to help many organizations, from the Micah Project, an affiliation of faith communities in the Richmond area that sends volunteer tutors into the public school system, to the Virginia Mentoring Partnership, American Civil War Museum and Sheltering Arms.
Combining his interest in youth education and personal finance, Mr. Scott was a founding board member of the Virginia Council on Economic Education. The council advises K-12 teachers on how to teach financial literacy.
Scott came up with the idea years ago for the council’s Stock Market Game, in which students are given a hypothetical $100,000 to invest over a set period of time. A total of 15,000 students statewide in grades 4 through 12 competed during the 2018-19 academic year.
“You can give money to an organization. In a year or two, you might not know the results, but when you do something to help a child, that lasts a lifetime. Now that is a really good investment,” Scott said in the 2016 newspaper article.
“He was all about educating young folks,” Robertson said.
Mr. Scott also served as a member of the board of visitors at Virginia Commonwealth University for 11 years and at his alma mater, the University of Virginia, for seven years. He also was trustee for 10 years, until the mid-1990s, of Virginia’s multibillion-dollar retirement system.
For 50 years until 2009, he served on the board of what is now NewMarket Corp., the Richmond-based petroleum additives firm that is the parent company of Afton Chemical Corp. and Ethyl Corp.
“Buford was the consummate gentleman and professional who brought a wealth of financial knowledge and business savvy to our company,” said Thomas E. “Teddy” Gottwald, NewMarket’s chairman, president and CEO.
“He was a steady source of guidance through the tough times, and a great cheerleader during the good times,” Gottwald said. “He was a man of strong faith, and we always looked forward to his eloquent and inspiring blessings over meals at company functions.”
After graduating from UVA in 1955, Mr. Scott spent two years serving in the Counter Intelligence Corps, a World War II and early Cold War intelligence agency within the U.S. Army.
Mr. Scott began his career in May 1958 at Scott & Stringfellow as a board boy, an entry-level position that involved scribbling stock prices on a board so the brokers could see the updates. He made $150 a month.
After about a year, he was promoted to the cage, a place where securities were received and delivered as people bought and sold stock. Scott’s father soon made him a partner to see if he was up to the task.
In 1974, a year after his father’s death, the firm incorporated. Scott & Stringfellow Financial Inc. became a publicly traded company in 1986.
In 1999, BB&T Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C., bought Scott & Stringfellow and eventually renamed it as BB&T Scott & Stringfellow.
Under Mr. Scott’s leadership, Scott & Stringfellow remained a Richmond presence when so many regional brokerages and institutions disappeared amid mergers and consolidations. The firm has 60 offices in 12 states and employs more than 1,000 people.
Despite the growth, “what always held fast was his commitment to our clients, our associates, our communities and our industry,” said Kelly King, BB&T’s chairman and CEO.
“Without question, culture was his most significant and lasting contribution to our firm,” King said. “He leaves behind a lasting legacy of vision, service, dedication and optimism. He was a true gentleman.”
Preceding him in death was a sister, Margery Johnson of Raleigh, N.C.
Survivors include his wife, Susan Bailey Scott; two sons, Sidney Buford Scott Jr. of Chesterfield County and George R.B. Scott of Acton, Mass.; a daughter, Elizabeth Scott Cech of Charlottesville; two sisters, Mary Denny Wray of Richmond and Elisabeth Scott Porter of Washington, D.C.; a brother, George Ross Scott of Henrico County; nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Tuesday night.
Staff writer John Reid Blackwell and retired staff writer Carol Hazard contributed to this report.