When adversity strikes, we are defined by how we respond; no one understood this better than our late friend, Earl “Baron” Fain IV, whose recent sudden death sent shockwaves through the Lowcountry and beyond. Baron was the man to meet and relish the moment — whatever engagement it might have been. He had a keen eye of discernment and an extraordinary sense of propriety and we thank the good Lord for giving us the opportunity to know a gentleman as gracious, witty and gregarious as our dear brother.
Baron’s well-attended funeral service was at St. Philip’s Church on August 6 and followed by a private interment in the churchyard of the St. Thomas and St. Denis Church in Cainhoy.
He is survived by the love of his life, his beloved wife, Courtenay McCormick Fain, a son to whom he was devoted, Taliaferro Rice “Tradd” Fain, and a cherished sister, Virginia Elizabeth Fain.
Baron was a much-esteemed member of the Lowcountry community and well beyond Palmetto State horizons; he was known and respected in a large number of places he visited for work or pleasure across the country, especially in his beloved South.
Born on Nov. 1, 1962 to Kelly Erwin Fain and Earl Fain III, Baron spent most of his formative years growing up in Dallas, Texas. His grandfather, Earl Fain, Jr., had a home in Yemassee, S.C., at The Bluff Plantation, where Baron learned to hunt and love the Lowcountry.
Outdoor experiences for Baron were a way of seeing God’s grace through nature. He especially reveled in his years of camp in northern New Mexico at Cimarroncita Ranch Camp. Baron also enjoyed snow skiing and breathtaking mountain vistas; moreover, his choices in schools situated him near natural wonders that brought him great joy.
Baron graduated from Deerfield Academy where he took on an interest in public affairs. While serving as an editor of the student newspaper, he learned to “proof by reading backwards,” a skill he honed and retained — and contributed to this newspaper. Following prep school, he immediately headed south and landed at The University of the South, majoring in British history, a subject he continued to pursue long after he graduated in 1985. While at The University of the South, he was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order where he served as president his senior year; he was also a member of the Red Ribbon Society, Chi Delta, the Order of the Silver Spoon, the Wellingtons and many other social groups. Following graduation on The Mountain, he went to Washington, D.C., where he worked for Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) and then Congressman Robert Badham (R-CA).
In 1987 Baron left Capitol Hill for graduate school at The University of Virginia where he earned a master’s degree in foreign affairs. While there he delighted in living on the lawn and being a member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society for which he designed a tie in 1992 — his first. He telephoned Bob Prenner of the Ben Silver Corporation and worked out the details for the special order. Shortly thereafter, Baron called Bob and said he enjoyed the creative process so much that he would like to consider making it a career. He came to Charleston to visit Bob and Sue Prenner in person; they went out to supper on Folly Beach and struck a deal, creating a new position for institutional sales.
From July of 1992 until his death, Baron worked at his dream job. During his nearly three decades at Ben Silver, he specialized in providing custom items that often required a detailed understanding of heraldry, vexillology, institutions of higher learning and military traditions. Alumni affairs officers across the country, myriad club presidents and heritage society officers worked with Baron to craft elegant ties, buttons, cufflinks and much more for their members. His business ethics were impeccable and he brought authenticity and integrity to all he accomplished for his team at Ben Silver.
In Baron, his friends saw the wisdom of Solomon and the biblical brotherhood modeled by David and Jonathan. He sought to be honorable in all things and in all ways, following in the footsteps of his beloved Robert E. Lee, which was something about which he did not boast — he simply remained dutiful in all he did. Baron delighted in intelligent conversation and enjoyed field sports and any opportunity to go on an adventure with his son, Tradd, who was a tremendous joy in his life.
He was a devoted member of St. Philip’s Church; in addition, he was a regular attendee of the Wednesday morning 1928 Prayer Book Morning Prayer services in the St. Philip’s Chapel and the Men’s Ministry First Wednesday Luncheon. He also belonged to many Anglican groups, including the Prayer Book Society, to which he volunteered his time and talent selflessly.
Baron was the glue holding together so many Charleston institutions and special relationships; hence, he was a member, leader or founder of a significant number of fraternal, social and patriotic societies, a few of which include The Peninsula Club, the Carolina Yacht Club, The Charleston Club, the Caledonian Club of Charleston, Fort Sumter Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the St. David’s Society, The Royal Society of St. George, the Society of St. Thomas and St. Denis, the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, the Other Club, the Mystic Knights of the Sea, the Gen. William Moultrie Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Washington Light Infantry, the Piping and Marching Society of Lower Chalmers Street, the Military Order of Stars and Bars and the Palmetto Guard.
An accomplished and well-versed Freemason, Baron was raised at Naval Lodge No 4, F.A.A.M., in Washington, D.C. He was a past master of Magnolia Lodge No. 53, F.A.A.M. of Washington City, where he additionally served as secretary and also a past master of Landmark Lodge, No. 76, A.F.M., of Charleston, where he subsequently served as treasurer. He was a member of many other Masonic organizations, including the President John Rutledge Loyal Orange Lodge No. 1776 where was a past master. He was extremely active as an alumnus of the Kappa Alpha Order, serving as a leader of the Charleston and Washington Alumni Chapters, and was honored with memberships in the James Ward Wood Court of Honor and the John Temple Graves Court of Honor.
He served honorably for many years in the signal corps of the South Carolina State Guard, known among his loyal and devoted troops — all of whom he personally recruited — as the “Peninsula Guard” and attained the rank of staff sergeant. He recently had joined the board of the Palmetto Society of Charleston and was highly influential in just a brief time. Baron enjoyed traveling and brought home stories — and many flags — from all over the globe, especially Europe. He was a complex spice of joy in a world riddled with sadness and simplistic thinking. Baron’s deep intellectual curiosity directed him in many directions, including becoming a founder of the Charleston Mercury newspaper.
He, as with all the founders, went fishing one on one to Wadmalaw Island two decades ago with Charles Waring. On this sea island, Baron agreed to invest in the online paper and be the foreign affairs editor. He would go on to travel with the publisher by train to cover the 2001 presidential inauguration in Washington, opening many doors of opportunity as a sheer result of Baron’s extraordinary friendships. Fain and Waring joined forces again in May of that same year and met President Bush at The White House as well as various other administration officials. As the Mercury grew into a printed concern with Evening Post Industries in 2002 and after 2013 when it became independent, Baron remained a generous source of wise counsel and support until his death.
He met and married Courtenay Haden McCormick in 2006. Their son, Taliaferro Rice “Tradd” Fain, was born in 2010. Baron was dedicated to history and tradition, but he will most be remembered for his strong faith, his love for his family and his devoted friendship and genuine interest in others. He was a leader, a mentor and a servant.
To make a memorial gift in Baron’s honor, friends may make out checks to Mitchell Park RSW Athletic Program. Please mail contributions to 110 Fishburne St., Charleston, S.C., 29403. All proceeds go to benefit or sponsor a child who plays sports for Mitchell RSW Athletic Program for an opportunity to be able to see a National Football League game in December during which the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Indianapolis Colts.