IN MEMORIAM: John E. Sargent, Jr.

Jack Sargent, a long-time partner with McAfee & Taft best-known for his brilliant mind and encyclopedic knowledge of real estate law, passed away on Wednesday, November 7, 2018.

Jack earned his undergraduate degree in economics from Villanova University in 1965 and his Juris Doctor from The University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1971.  Before beginning his legal career, he served as a U.S. Navy officer during the Vietnam War from 1966 – 1968.  Though he was a master storyteller who could regale his friends with stories on a myriad of topics that ranged from Western art and the history of law to fishing and poker, his close friends say he remained very humble about his brave service in Vietnam, which included serving on patrol boats in the Mekong Delta.

After joining McAfee & Taft, Jack concentrated his practice in commercial and real estate law, representing clients in all phases of transactions involving the financing, construction, sales, purchase, leasing and zoning of commercial real estate as well as the negotiation of construction contracts and architectural contracts on behalf of owners.  His achievements in the field of real estate law earned him inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America and Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business.

To his colleagues at McAfee & Taft, Jack was the go-to guy for all things real estate.

“He was absolutely the expert in all matters real estate,” said Jeff Todd.  “Routinely, over the years, I pestered Jack with questions regarding real estate.  He usually knew the answer off the top of his head.  But if he didn’t, he would show me where to find the answer.  Often, he would show up a few minutes later in my office with a statute or case that answered a lingering question.  He hated not knowing the answer.  I won many an argument with opposing counsel by simply telling him that Jack Sargent said it was so.”

Dee Replogle remembers Jack as a genuinely nice guy who had the gift of telling stories in an enthralling manner – even when those stories were about real estate law.  “He was very bright and a great student of the law and its history,” said Replogle.  “If you asked about the Statute of Uses, for example, you could be sure Jack’s eyes would light up as he started at the very beginning and provided an in-depth explanation that would leave you wondering if he might actually have written the darn thing.”

Within the firm, Jack was also deeply admired by many for the generosity of his time and wisdom, as well as his humility.

“When I joined the firm many years ago, Jack was already an accomplished real estate lawyer whose reputation in the legal community was exemplary,” said Rob Garbrecht.  “However, what I will remember most about Jack was he was always willing to share his expertise and experiences with less-experienced lawyers to help develop their careers.  He was a great partner and will be missed greatly.”

“For 36 years I’ve benefited from Jack’s patient teaching and guidance,” said Michael Nordin.  “A couple of months ago, after some minor recognition of my work, I thanked him for all he had done for me.  Always modest about his own substantial accomplishments, this brilliant lawyer just smiled and said ‘Well, I had good teachers.’  So, Jack’s last lesson to me was a reminder of our duty to pass on our knowledge and experience with humility.”

Michael Avery remembers Jack as someone whose professional generosity in graciously sharing his time and expertise with other lawyers would not be forgotten.  “Jack was a walking encyclopedia of real estate law – a fact known to our partners, our clients, and lawyers from across the state and country,” said Avery.  “I was always grateful that a lawyer nearly 40 years my senior would take time to help me out. In many instances an initial conversation would not be the end of our discussion. Often times hours (and sometimes even days) after we had first spoken about an issue, Jack would show up in my office with a stack of research that, not surprisingly, substantiated his initial thoughts and in many instances identified and resolved other issues I had not spotted. I never asked Jack to do this, and Jack never asked me for anything in return. Jack wanted not only what was best for our clients, but he also had a commitment to mentoring our firm’s younger lawyers. The younger lawyers at our firm are extremely fortunate that Jack was and is not alone in his commitment to this type of mentorship. It serves as an example of the culture that attracted all of us to the firm and that we all strive to perpetuate for those who will come after us.”

Louis Price attributed Jack’s brilliant mind to his intellectual curiosity, which Louis considered Jack’s greatest asset.  “Whether he questioned some ancient religious practice, a historical military event, any line of European royalty, or an arcane legal concept, Jack’s curiosity drove him to find the determinative detail in every subject,” said Price.  “I can’t think of any person from whom I’ve learned more about so many different subjects.  His lessons about Western art, Catholicism, real estate law, navigation, trout fishing, and Villanova basketball are only a few of the subjects on which he had extraordinary expertise.  Jack taught me to do my best, to never begin advice to a client by saying ‘I don’t think we should do this or that or whatever.’ No matter how accurate it might be, you should never admit that you don’t think.  What a great mind we’ve lost.”

Jack is survived by his wife Suzette, his son John, and countless family members, friends and colleagues. 

“Above all, Jack was a loyal friend, a loving father, a devoted husband, and a trusted law partner,” said Replogle.  “We will meet again someday, but until then I will miss him, as will everyone who knew him.”