Mortimer M. Caplin

  • Professor Emeritus

Mortimer Caplin taught tax law for 33 years at the Law School, in addition to having a distinguished career as a tax attorney and founder of the Washington, D.C., law firm Caplin & Drysdale, one of the nation’s leading tax law firms.

First in his class at the Law School and editor-in-chief of the Virginia Law Review, Caplin served as a law clerk to Judge Armistead M. Dobie of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit after graduation. He then practiced law in New York City from 1941 to 1950, with time out for military service in the U.S. Navy. During the Normandy invasion he served as U.S. Navy beachmaster, and was cited as a member of initial landing force on Omaha Beach.

In 1950, Caplin returned to the Law School as a professor of law, specializing in tax and corporate law and publishing extensively in these fields. He also engaged in practice as counsel to a Virginia law firm.

Following President John F. Kennedy's election, Caplin served on the President's Task Force on Taxation and in January 1961 was appointed U.S. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. He remained in that post until July 1964, when he resigned to form the law firm Caplin & Drysdale. Caplin continued to teach at the Law School from 1965 to 1988 as a visiting professor.

Caplin has served as trustee of several educational and charitable organizations, including the University of Virginia Board of Visitors, the UVA Law School Foundation, George Washington University, the Board of Overseers for the University of the Virgin Islands, Peace Through Law Education Fund, Arena Stage, Shakespeare Theatre, and the Wolf Trap Foundation.

Caplin served for over 10 years as chair of the UVA Council for the Arts and recently was named honorary chair. He now serves on the Governing Council of the UVA Miller Center of Public Affairs, on the board of directors of the Environmental & Energy Study Institute, and as chair of the Board of Advisors of the Hospitality & Information Service in Washington, D.C. He is also on the board of directors of Danaher Corporation and Presidential Realty Corporation.

Caplin’s commitment to public service, teaching, and the educational process has been recognized by many awards, including the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Law, the University of Virginia’s highest honor. On leaving the U. S. government, he received the Alexander Hamilton Award, the highest award conferred by the Secretary of the Treasury, for his “distinguished leadership.” He is also the recipient of the Achievement Award from the Tax Society of New York University; Judge Learned Hand Human Relations Award, American Jewish Committee; Tax Executives Institute Distinguished Service Award; Veterans of Foreign Wars Public Service Award; and the Virginia State Bar and Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants Award. He has received honorary degrees from the University of South Carolina, Washington College, and St. Michael’s College.

More About Mortimer Caplin


  • S.J.D.
    New York University School of Law
  • LL.B.
    University of Virginia School of Law
  • LL.D.
    University of South Carolina
  • LL.D.
    Washington College
  • LL.D.
    St. Michael's College
  • B.S.
    University of Virginia
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