Mortimer Caplin Celebrates 102nd Birthday with Gift to UVA Law School
Caplin & Drysdale

Mortimer Caplin Celebrates 102nd Birthday with Gift to UVA Law School

Date: 7/11/2018

Caplin & Drysdale’s Founding Member and former IRS Commissioner during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, the Honorable Mortimer M. Caplin – on the occasion of his 102nd birthday on July 11th – gave the University of Virginia School of Law the desk where he practiced law for nearly a half century.  The desk (shown below) now occupies a place of honor in the office of the UVA Law School Foundation, a vital center of alumni, faculty, and student enterprise.

Following President John F. Kennedy's election, Mr. Caplin served on the President's Task Force on Taxation and in January 1961 was appointed U.S. Commissioner of Internal Revenue Service. He remained in that post until July 1964 when he resigned and formed Caplin & Drysdale.  There, Mr. Caplin assembled a team of lawyers from top staff at the IRS, the Treasury, and the Justice Department to offer companies, organizations, and individuals tax legal services of the highest quality.

Mr. Caplin instituted a style of practice aimed at minimizing clients' tax liabilities without compromising the ethical principles essential to the integrity of the tax system.  With him at the helm, Caplin & Drysdale soon earned a reputation among clients for mastering the complex and ever-changing tax laws and for finding well-conceived, innovative solutions to tax problems.  At the same time, the firm earned the trust and respect of government officials -- a benefit to clients planning transactions, seeking rulings from the IRS, or trying to resolve tax controversies.

In 1963, Mr. Caplin was on the cover of Time magazine.  In that profile, he said of the source of his ambition, “There may be something in being a member of a minority that makes a man run.  . . . I was always running.”  Excerpt taken from the article “This 100-Year-Old Public Servant Is From A Time When Americans Still Believed Government” by Colby Itkowitz for The Washington Post.

About the Desk

The desk was crafted in London circa 1820. Called a “Partners Desk,” its deep design efficiently allowed two “partners” to face each other as they carried out their business.  It is made of mahogany wood that was harvested from a Caribbean island and used as ship’s ballast during the return voyage to England.

Mr. Caplin acquired this historic desk at a small antique shop in London, England, while travelling there with his wife Ruth.  They arranged to have it shipped to the offices of Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, D.C. The desk mysteriously went missing for many months. Repeated inquiries on the whereabouts of the desk went unanswered. The shipping company eventually reported to Mr. Caplin that it was lost.  Suspicious of this report, Mr. Caplin commenced a thorough search utilizing investigative skills and relationships developed during his time in government.  Eventually, the desk was found in Texas, where the shipper had placed it in his own home.

With the help of law enforcement, the desk was reclaimed, and arrived at Caplin & Drysdale nine months after it first left England.

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