William J. Fleming, 69, Lawyer, TV Host, Philanthropist

July 28, 1948 - Jan. 11, 2018

With his golden retriever almost always at his side on daily walks from his East Hampton law office, William J. Fleming might have seemed every bit the country lawyer, said his law partner, Trevor Darrell. But with Mr. Fleming you got much more than met the eye. 

“He put forward that he was just an average guy, and yet his intellect was anything but average,” Mr. Darrell said. He was “one of the most well-read people I’d ever met,” and “one of the brightest minds I knew.” He read several newspapers cover to cover each day and always had three or four books going at once.

Mr. Fleming, who was known as Bill, died on Jan. 11 of heart failure. He was 69 and is survived by his wife, the former Abigail Jackson, and a daughter, Catharine, 20. 

A lawyer with a practice in East Hampton since 1980, he was also the host of “The East End Show” on LTV for 31 years. It was the public access channel’s longest-running show, enlivened by the host’s affable personality, wide-ranging interests, and genuine respect for his guests. He also headed up LTV’s annual Election Night coverage, keeping viewers up to date as polls closed in East Hampton and Southampton. 

Over the years, Mr. Fleming interviewed politicians, journalists, sports fans, historians, writers, activists, artists, winemakers, and clergy members, beginning each live Thursday evening show with a reading of The East Hampton Star’s headlines that day and “Newsday’s best guess of the weather.” 

“Government, politics, books, movies, you never quite knew what was going to come up,” said Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., a longtime friend and frequent LTV guest. The two had many common interests, among them Big East basketball. “Bill was the only guy who would take you to the Museum of Modern Art” before going to a game, Mr. Thiele said. “He had this streak of the renaissance man.”  

Mr. Fleming could expound on a range of subjects from the law to baseball to the Civil War, from Italian red wines to politics to the environment. “Talking to Bill Fleming was one of the joys of any day,” Mr. Thiele said.

Though he had no cellphone and did not keep a computer on his desk, Mr. Fleming was especially good at keeping up with friends old and new. “He was a letter writer,” his wife said. “He’d call people.”

Mr. Fleming was born in Queens on July 28, 1948, to the former Anne Thoet and William Fleming II. His mother was paralyzed from polio from the time of his birth. Mr. Fleming, the younger of two sons, was deeply devoted to her, according to his brother, Herbert Fleming of Charleston, S.C., and cared for her throughout her life “with exuberance.” 

He grew up in Garden City, attending Chaminade High School and then Garden City High School, where he played football and basketball. He went on to George Washington University and Adelphi University before being drafted into the Army and serving two years in Korea. A talented athlete, he was an alternate on the United States Olympic handball team while attending Adelphi and while serving in the Army. 

After returning from service overseas, he moved to Oregon, where he worked until entering the College of Law at Willamette University in Salem, Ore. 

He opened his own law practice in East Hampton above the Old Post Office Cinema on Newtown Lane. In his early years here, his wife recalled, he lived in a cottage without plumbing on a friend’s property and often showered at the Coast Guard Station at Georgica Beach. 

He advertised his practice as a “general practice of law” but came to specialize in transactional work, land use, and estate planning and was also known for his work with charitable organizations. 

He and Abigail Jackson were married on Sept. 28, 1985, in East Hampton, the day after Hurricane Gloria made landfall on Long Island. 

Travel was important to Mr. Fleming and became a big part of the couple’s life together. After their daughter was born, in 1997, he dreamed of putting her in school in Europe and taking a year off to travel there, she said. “Travel fed his soul.” 

He researched all their trips in hardcover Michelin Guides, calling hotels and restaurants directly to inquire about the best room or table before finally looking up photos with his wife on the internet. He took pleasure, too, in planning trips — even weddings and honeymoons — for family and friends, all without the aid of the internet. 

Ireland, the birthplace of both sets of his grandparents, became a favorite destination. Spain — Barcelona in particular — France, and recently Austria also topped his list. He loved and supported National Parks, especially Yellowstone in Wyoming, and enjoyed exploring them and hiking them with friends and family.

As a history buff with a special interest in the Civil War and World War II, he loved Normandy and had taken his daughter to Gettysburg and other significant Civil War sites across the South. His series of golden retrievers were all named after Civil War generals, with the last, Oli, being named for the Civil War poet Oliver Wendell Holmes.

His daughter, Catharine, an accomplished pianist, vocalist, athlete, and student, was “his pride and joy,” his family said. He coached her Little League softball team for many years and cheered her on in volleyball, basketball, lacrosse, and tennis. “One of his brightest moments recently was attending a December St. John’s basketball game where Catharine (for the second time) sang the national anthem,” a friend, Randi Dickson, wrote. 

Mr. Fleming believed that people should donate at least 10 percent of their income to charity, according to his family, and in keeping with that philosophy, he served on the boards of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival and the East Hampton Historical Society, and supported the Nature Conservancy, the Wounded Warrior Project, and a host of other organizations. 

He was instrumental in convincing the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to donate 10 oceanfront acres in Montauk to the Nature Conservancy. “Bill was able to use his considerable skills as a lawyer and his great personal warmth and charisma to get the [foundation’s] board and other players to agree to the donation,” wrote Sara Davison, a friend and the former director of the conservancy’s Long Island chapter. 

He also helped out each year at a large fund-raiser for the Nature Conservancy’s Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island, marshaling a team of fellow volunteers. “He worked his way up to section leader, which he preferred to call ‘head waiter,’ a position he was very proud of,” Ms. Davison said. “Bill had a love of tradition and continuity, so you could count on him to commit to something for the long haul.” 

He was “deeply caring and generous to the whole community,” said Bill Nagel of East Hampton, a friend since high school in Garden City. Mr. Fleming, Mr. Nagel said, “was committed to civil rights for all and helpful to anyone in need.” 

On a more personal level, Mr. Nagel recalled, he was quick to share life’s pleasures with friends, hosting dinners with his wife, Sunday Ping-Pong sessions in his basement, and securing and sharing tickets to watch the Mets, U.S. Open tennis, the Big East, and St. John’s basketball.

Mr. Fleming, a lifelong Democrat, ran unsuccessfully for Suffolk County legislator in 1981 and for East Hampton Town trustee. He was a major contributor to local and national Democratic candidates’ campaigns and hosted many political fund-raisers with his wife at their house in Wainscott. 

In 2007, Mr. Darrell, then a young lawyer just leaving the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, joined Mr. Fleming’s practice to form Fleming and Darrell. “He was my mentor,” Mr. Darrell said. 

“He loved people,” Mr. Thiele said, “and because of that, people loved him back.” 

In addition to his wife, daughter, and brother, Mr. Fleming is survived by many nieces and nephews. His mother died in December of 2016 and his father died in 2000. 

A memorial service is planned for the spring.

The family has suggested donations to the Long Island chapter of the Nature Conservancy, P.O. Box 5125, East Hampton 11937; the Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street, New York 10011 or irishrep.org; the Thomas Moran Trust, 101 Main Street, East Hampton 11937; Yellowstone National Park at yellowstone.org, or a charity of choice.