William A. Hazel, prominent Northern Virginia businessman, dies at 77

September 6, 2012

William A. Hazel, a Northern Virginia businessman and developer whose construction company built housing, office buildings, public institutions and roads throughout the region during a time of rapid growth, died Sept. 3 at Fauquier Hospital in Warrenton. He was 77.

He had complications from a stroke, his daughter Ruth Hazel Little said.

Mr. Hazel, a onetime farmer, began his career in 1958 with a one-bulldozer excavation company. He ran the bulldozer.

The Chantilly-based William A. Hazel Inc. later grew into one of the Washington area’s largest construction firms and was known for its bright-red dump trucks. The company handled the earth-moving and infrastructure work on scores of large-scale projects.

Mr. Hazel often worked in partnership with his older brother John T. “Til” Hazel Jr., a lawyer and developer who has been one of the driving forces behind the growth of Northern Virginia since the 1970s.

William Hazel operated a development company of his own for several years, Cavalier Land Development, but he was primarily known for wheels-on-the-ground heavy construction, including paving and the installation of sewage pipes.

“He would tell you he was a ditch digger,” his daughter said.

Over the years, the company’s projects included the Dulles Town Center and Burke Centre shopping malls, the Ashburn Farm housing development, corporate buildings, hospitals, schools and more than 1,000 miles of roads and highways.

In his 1991 book “Edge City,” former Washington Post reporter Joel Garreau wrote that Mr. Hazel built an “earthmoving empire of twelve hundred employees” and “owned more heavy equipment than many African nations.”

Mr. Hazel retired as chief executive in 2008 but continued as chairman of the board of his privately owned company until his death. The current chief executive, Jay Keyser, said the firm does more than $100 million a year in business.

“Before the recent downturn,” he said, “it was substantially over $100 million.”

William Andrew Hazel was born March 26, 1935, in Boston, where his father, a surgeon, was a medical intern. He grew up in Arlington County and graduated from Washington-Lee High School.

He served in the Army during the 1950s and worked on a family farm in McLean before entering the construction business. In 1957, his family bought land in the Fauquier County community of Broad Run, where Mr. Hazel and other members of his family settled and raised cattle.

The rapid growth of Northern Virginia in the 1960s and later made Mr. Hazel a wealthy man, but he maintained a much lower public profile than his politically well-connected brother.

In addition to his business acumen, Mr. Hazel became known for his philanthropy, particularly to educational groups, to which he contributed millions of dollars. He was instrumental in the founding of Lord Fairfax Community College in 1970 and donated $1 million in the form of land to George Mason University in 1988.

Mr. Hazel also helped found the Virginia Literacy Foundation and was a member of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority from 1998 to 2007. He served on the boards of Virginia Military Institute, several private schools and Youth for Tomorrow, an organization founded by former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs to benefit at-risk youths. He was also a member of the Warrenton Presbyterian Church.

Survivors include his wife of 58 years, Eleanor Costello Hazel of Broad Run; five children, Dr. William A. Hazel Jr., an orthopedic surgeon and the current Virginia secretary of health and human resources, of Oakton, Ruth Hazel Little of Vienna, Jeannie Soltesz of Leesburg, David Hazel of Broad Run and Danny Hazel of The Plains; two brothers, John T. “Til” Hazel Jr. and L. Douglas Hazel, both of Broad Run; 11 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

Ruth Little said her father often made anonymous donations, including buying organs for churches, paying the tuition for students and providing turkeys to families at Christmas.

Matt Schudel has been an obituary writer at The Washington Post since 2004.
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