Les Fraser, 102, he was ‘Mr. Buckhead'

There wasn’t much about Buckhead Les Fraser didn’t know. He’d been in the community for more than 60 years, and contributed heavily to independent retail development in the area, friends and family said.

“Les was Mr. Buckhead, long before interlopers like me entered the arena,” said Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition and a former mayor of Atlanta. “He lived in Buckhead and for Buckhead.”

Joseph Lester Fraser, of Atlanta, known by most as J. Lester or Les, died Dec. 25 at his home of natural causes. He was 102. A private family memorial will be held at a later date. Roswell Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.

Mr. Fraser was born in Chicago but after moving to Atlanta in the 1940s, he considered Buckhead home, said his son Tom Fraser, of Atlanta.

“He didn’t want to live anywhere else,” Mr. Fraser said of his father.

Before settling in Atlanta, Mr. Fraser attended the University of Chicago, where he played football and ran track. He graduated in 1931 and began a career in retail, which would eventually bring him to Atlanta and his beloved Buckhead. Mr. Fraser worked at Marshall Field & Co. in Chicago and then went to R. H. Macy in New York, as a merchandise manager. It was at Macy’s that he met Muriel Behrens, who was a shoe stylist. The two married and remained so for 63 years, until Mrs. Fraser’s death in 1999.

In 1942, Mr. Fraser took time out from his career and served in the Navy as a lieutenant commander until 1945. He was an active reserve member for many years, his son said.

After the war, Mr. Fraser transferred to Bamberger's department store, owned by Macy’s, before joining Davison-Paxon Co. and moving to Atlanta in 1948.

It wasn’t long before the Fraser’s decided to specialize in post-war women’s sportswear, their son said. In 1951 the Frasers opened Casual Corner, a women’s sportswear store, in Buckhead.

During his time as a shop owner, Mr. Fraser gave others a solid template for how to run a business, said John Sherman, a long-time friend and president of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation.

“He came in early and set the pace for the day,” Mr. Sherman said. “And then he’d work late. He was a gem of a man.”

Around that period, Mr. Fraser helped form what is now the Buckhead Business Association. Even after he retired from the apparel business, he didn’t resign from the business of Buckhead. He became active with the Fulton County zoning department and kept abreast of all things Buckhead that came through that office.

Mr. Fraser volunteered his time in and around his community until he was 100, his son said. He continued to donate to more than two dozen charities until his death.

“He had a sense of community and responsibility,” said his son Tom Fraser. “He grew up in an era that believed you were supposed to be involved in your community and make it better.”

Mr. Fraser is also survived by his daughter, Edie Fraser of Washington, D.C..