Developer Leon Trager; Promoted Laissez-Faire Capitalism

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Leon Trager, 80, a real estate developer who championed the principles of individualism and laissez-faire capitalism, died of pancreatic cancer Nov. 26 at Casey House hospice in Rockville.

Mr. Trager objected to government involvement in real estate, including Maryland's plan to buy some of his land for the proposed Intercounty Connector and efforts by Montgomery County to introduce more-affordable housing into a wealthy area of Potomac in the mid-1990s.

"It's a fascist trend," Mr. Trager told USA Today in 1994. "Here you have property owners being attacked by the very government that is supposed to be protecting them. You can't do a just deed by doing an injustice to someone else."

Mr. Trager was such a devout follower of objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand that he would visit used bookstores to buy paperback copies of her novel "Atlas Shrugged" to give away.

Mr. Trager was born in Mar del Plata, Argentina, and came to the Washington area before his first birthday. He started his first business with a friend at the age of 7, selling bundles of kindling at 10 cents each.

He graduated from Anacostia High School in 1947 and attended the University of Maryland. He served in the Army during the Korean War.

It took more than 50 jobs and many firings before he found the one he liked best -- working for himself in real estate.

He founded a firm usually called Maryland Professionals, based in Bethesda and Silver Spring, that he ran for more than 40 years.

He was, he said in a letter to The Washington Post, "a salesman and broker, a leasing agent and broker, a management agent and a chief operating officer of several real estate brokerage companies, a land developer, a builder of apartment buildings and detached houses, a renovator of commercial properties, a professional investor and a professional negotiator and adviser regarding real estate matters for numerous local business people."

His first wife, Sandra Cohen, died in 1961. His second marriage, to Maraline Myers Trager, ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of two months, Victoria Youcha of Bethesda; three children from his second marriage, Nathaniel Trager of Bethesda, Noah Trager of Silver Spring and Gabrielle Trager of Washington; and a sister.

-- Patricia Sullivan

© 2008 The Washington Post Company