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Jones Day mourns retired partner Hugh Calkins

August 2014


Hugh CalkinsHugh Calkins, our long time partner and the leader of the Tax Practice for a number of years, died Monday night. He had battled Parkinson's for several years.

Hugh was born in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1924, and after finishing high school went to Harvard. He graduated in 1942 and promptly joined the Air Force, serving until 1946. He then went to Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Law Review and took every honor. After graduating, he clerked for Learned Hand on the Second Circuit and Felix Frankfurter at the Supreme Court.

All this suggests Hugh was smart, and that would be an understatement. His ability to reason, the precision of his analyses, and his comprehension—his sheer intelligence—were of once-in-a-lifetime quality. Mr. Spock of Star Trek would have struggled to keep up. His ability to dictate lengthy work product, complete with headings, footnotes, and citations, was legendary. Who else but Hugh would know on page 20 of his dictation that he was beginning section 4 of his analysis and dropping footnote 17 to the bottom of the page. I can still see him with his dictaphone and the little tapes that went with it. All this would have been frightening to an associate if Hugh were mean, or even if he were stern, but he was not. This does not mean he did not inspire awe, or envy. I remember one associate remarking, "It’s not fair, he’s a Martian."

On the other hand, he could be impractical. This had two causes. Of course, his intelligence caused him to see very complex solutions as simple, and therefore practical. More important, he had very abundant energy and even more enthusiasm. So to Hugh, everything worth doing was doable. He could have been an early spokesman for Nike, albeit gentler—why don't we just do it?

Hugh was a great tax lawyer. He represented General Motors on its most difficult tax matters. He represented Westinghouse in what at the time was the largest proposed adjustment in IRS history. He represented Pfizer in the section 482/936 controversy, making a presentation to the Pfizer board that retained the work for Jones Day. Hugh always seemed to become chair or president of whatever institution he was serving, despite never seeking these positions. This was true in the tax world, too. He became chair of the ABA Tax Section after engaging in a debate from the floor about some then important tax issue. He had not much participated in the Tax Section before then, but after the debate he was asked by the powers that be to be its next chair.

Hugh was also very active outside the office. In 1959-60 he took a leave of absence to serve as Bill Bundy's deputy on President Eisenhower's Commission on National Goals. It was there that Hugh developed an enduring devotion to secondary education, particularly in our big cities. As a matter of community and politics, he was a classic liberal. In testifying at a Senate hearing on inner schools he once got into an exchange with Robert Kennedy, then Senator from New York. "Why should we pour money into these schools when there's no proof it will fix them," asked Kennedy. "Because we've shortchanged these kids in every way, including money, so we ought at least to start with that," replied Hugh.

While a partner at Jones Day, Hugh served on the Cleveland School Board. His first election was one of the most contentious anyone can remember, and after he won he moved his family from Shaker Heights and enrolled them in the Cleveland public schools. Even after retiring, Hugh stayed devoted to Cleveland's schools, teaching math to middle schoolers. When the school district discovered he didn't have a teacher's certificate, he enrolled at Cleveland State to take the required education courses. And he became a substitute teacher in the meantime. Proving the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, his daughter now teaches in the D.C. public school system.

Hugh also served Harvard, eventually becoming senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, Harvard's governing body. He was appointed to the Corporation in 1968, in his early 40's. He was by far its youngest member. These were strange times at many schools, with protests about Vietnam, ROTC on campus, minority admissions, and many other issues. In the spring of 1969, Harvard students went on strike, with a number of them occupying Massachusetts Hall, the Harvard administration building. Hugh reviewed the ineffectual performance of Harvard in the first week of the strike, decided something needed to be done, and decided that he should be the one to do it. The Harvard Crimson published a two-part article describing Hugh's actions, entitled "Who is this man Hugh Calkins?" Edited slightly, the Crimson said:

One of the more interesting phenomena of the last month has been the sudden rise of Hugh Calkins. A month ago, few Harvard undergraduates had ever seen Calkins. In a month of crisis at Harvard, Calkins has been hard to miss. Taking up the gap left by President Pusey’s artless performance in the first few days of the strike, Calkins has turned himself into a one-man public-relations agency for the Harvard administration. In the first week of the strike, Calkins talked about dissent and ROTC and all the other issues for two straight nights on television. He ate breakfast with students in the Houses. With disturbing energy and bounce, Calkins spoke in dining halls and appeared with SDS members on panel discussions. Has Calkins come here to win friends? To save the college? To make political capital in his home town of Cleveland? Is he, as some radicals have suggested, an Administration superman, the only fellow shrewd enough to put up a good front in debates? Or is he, as all his statements certainly imply, a true liberal who is sincerely doing his best to reason with the students? Who is this man Hugh Calkins?

The answer to that question is easier than the Crimson thought. Hugh was our mentor, our partner, and our friend. He was a leader in Cleveland. He tried always to do good. He was the epitome of Jones Day.

Raymond J. Wiacek
Practice Leader, Tax