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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: RICHARD B. STEPHENS
INTERVIEWER: DENISE STOBBIE
DATE: JUNE 7, 1985
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Richard B. Stephens
Interviewer: Denise Stobbie
June 7, 1985
Richard Badenoch Stephens is professor emeritus of law at
the University of Florida. He served on the faculty of the
College of Law from 1949 to 1977 and is considered the founding
father of the Graduate Tax Program. He is the author of a number
of books, including coauthoring Fundamentals of Federal Income
Taxation, 6th ed., 1987. In 1985 he was selected Tax Lawyer of
the Year by the Tax Section of the Florida Bar.
Stephens was raised in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of
Chicago. In high school he lettered in basketball and cofounded
the golf team. Stephens credits an English teacher, John
Gehlman, for teaching him debate procedure. After high school he
enrolled at the University of Rochester on a four-year
scholarship. He majored in English and graduated in 1939.
Stephens wanted to teach English, but his father suggested that
he look into business or law. He then attended law school at the
University of Michigan, where he graduated in 1942.
Stephens then enlisted in the U.S. Navy and completed
midshipman school that year. Training in judo caused him
problems with vision and headaches, and he took a medical
discharge the next year. He then entered into practice with the
prestigious tax firm of Covington & Burling in Washington, DC.
In 1945 Stephens worked with Charles Fahy, who was the solicitor
general of the U.S. and legal advisor to General Eisenhower. He
worked in Berlin on forming the quadrapartite government in
Stephens came to the University of Florida in 1949. In the
interview he discusses taxation as it was handled by accountants
in the past and presently by lawyers. He also discusses the
beginnings of the tax program at the College of Law and the
dealings with law school, Graduate School, and UF
administrations. The genesis of the Law Review, as headed by
George J. Miller, is also recounted.
Stephens has been married to his wife Barbara since 1943,
and they have a daughter, Susan, and a son, Richard, Jr., as well
as five grandchildren. In his spare time, Stephens enjoys golf
(his house overlooks the UF golf course), writing and editing,
managing his investments, walks with his wife and Labrador
retriever Maggie, and reading three newspapers a day.
D: This is Denise Stobbie and I am interviewing Professor Emeritus Richard B.
Stephens in his Gainesville, Florida, home.
R: As I said to you when you first came in, I thought it would be interesting
in the little time I was waiting for you to think back about the people
who really had the most profound effect on me from the standpoint of my
writing and teaching, the most profound effect on the professional things
that I have done. I quickly got back to my father, of course, which is a
sensible enough place to start. He was an Englishman who came to this
country at a pretty early age, in his teens, with practically no
education. Without much formal schooling, he joined the Baptist ministry.
As a matter of fact, he had a church in Jacksonville, Illinois, for a
time, but he felt the ministry was not exactly made for him although he
stayed a very religious person all his life. He left that to go to school
and was admitted to the University of Chicago without ever having had the
equivalent of a high school education. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from
the University of Chicago, after I was born. He was a fairly stern
father, but he had an Englishman's kind of jolly sense of humor. It was a
pretty good mix. I think I can properly say we were good friends, at
least after I had attained maturity. He had, I suppose in part from his
training in the ministry a great way of articulating his thoughts, a great
way of getting his thoughts across to people. I did not, at the time,
study that consciously, but I am conscious now of his getting me started
in that direction.
D: What did he study in college?
R: He studied English in college, majored in English. I do not know why he
did that. He had no means, no wealth or anything and in fact, went to
work for a time for my uncle's business in Chicago. They were in the
grain business for years. That was not a happy arrangement for anybody, I
D: What is his full name?
R: Percy William Stephens. I think they used Percy in a denigrating way
which sort of reflected their relationship. So he left them at a farily
early time and set up business for himself, which was quite successful for
a time but was overcome badly by the Great Depression along about in the
early 1930s. He really never fully recovered from that. But he
unquestionably, as I think back upon it he had a very profound effect on
I move now, and this may seem odd, to a teacher I had in the sixth grade.
Her name was O'Connor, and a stern and forbidding figure at that. She
taught us arithmetic. She would ask a question and you would answer
somewhat timidly. When you answered she would say, "Do you know you
know?" in a stern, profound, fashion. This shook you right down to your
boots, and you asked yourself, "Do I know that I am right about this?"
That thought, "Do you know you know?" has stuck with me all my life. Some
things you think you know and some things you know you know. In
arithmetic, as we were learning it as children, you could know if you
were right and when you should be right, you see. I think she had a
profound effect in that fashion on my later thinking and analysis of
things. We need not waste anymore time or spend anymore time on Miss
D: I think she would be happy to know her impact.
R: She would be if she were still alive, but I have no idea whether she is.
D: Where was that? What school?
R: That was in Oak Park, Illinois, at Emerson Grammar School. That is a
suburb of Chicago. It is a matter of substance, not form, knowing that
you know something, and it is important. Now, I move from here to high
school, where a person named John Gehlman taught at the Oak Park and River
Forest Township High School. He taught English, and I learned grammar and
exposition from him. He was also the adviser to the Lincoln Club, which
was one of the two debating clubs of which I was president when I was a
senior at this very large high school of 4,000 students. I developed, in
my junior year, a fairly close relationship with Mr. Gehlman and an
interest in such things as Robert's Rules of Order, parliamentary debate
and extemporaneous speaking. They all have come in hand in later years,
although I think that his contribution to whatever I may have become was
more improving my articulation and self expression. That is, of course,
what you primarily get in a debating club. So it was a useful experience.
I would move from them, and you are going to be surprised that I will not
mention anybody who taught me in college or in law school, but that is as
it is, to a colleague. Not a classmate. He was two years ahead of me in
college at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. Robert B.
Shetterly had a way of speaking that was new to me. He made great use of
similes and metaphors, which made his language and discussion
-exceptionally interesting and sparkling. About that time, or maybe
before, I had discovered a department in the Reader's Digest, which still
exists, called "Toward a More Picturesque Speech." They go together--
Shetterly and that Reader's Digest department--enabling me to say things
that I wish to say in an interesting way, rather than merely in an
accurate way. So I think he played a big part.
Next, is a person named Joel Barlow, an enormously successful tax lawyer
with the law firm of Covington & Burling. Well, Learned Hand, who is one
of the most famous judges, told me one day in the library of that firm
that he considered that the best law firm in the world, that is how
outstanding an organization it was. I went to work for that when I got
out of the navy. I was briefly in the navy in 1942 and 1943. I was
honorary discharged for a disability in about June of 1943 and went into
that office and worked for them most of the time for about half a dozen
years. That is how I became interested in tax. I had never had any
interest in tax before then. But his way of doing things was much to my
liking. He felt that every opinion letter that left his office should be
not only sound and accurate in substance from the standpoint of the law,
but also something of a literary masterpiece. He was very concerned about
his style of writing letters and fortunately I was able, rather quickly,
to develop a style that suited him very well. Perhaps I imitated him. I
do not know, but it gave me a further interest in the use of language
which I think I have retained, and certainly, he had a lot to do with it.
I am getting pretty well down on the list.
The next person, and the last one that I shall mention, is a person named
George John Miller. [George John Miller, Professor, University of Florida
College of Law, (1948-1955)] He worked with Davis Polk, which is one of
the few very famous New York law firms, John W. Davis' firm. For some
time after he got his law degree he practiced in New York City. He
came to Florida from Davis Polk about the time I did and taught at the
University of Florida for several years.
D: At the law school?
R: Yes, at the law school. He should be credited with the development of the
University of Florida Law Review. He started it. He was the first
adviser to it. It was almost his magazine for a time. He did much
editing and work that really should have been done by the students, but
you have to develop some tradition and procedures before they can do that,
before it can be mostly student run. He filled that role very, very well.
George had faults, perhaps, and maybe many. He was under some pressure
from acquaintances and family to get into the business end of things
and he left teaching, I cannot recall exactly when. Then he went into law
practice, which I think he never really liked very well. He left it
finally, fifteen years ago at least, and went back to teaching philosophy
at the University of West Florida. Why, I am not exactly sure. I could
never get things arragned to have George come back to our faculty. He was
not universally loved and admired, but I think he should have been. I
think that there is a place in the world for people like George John
Miller. But anyway, his contribution to my development came when we
taught a course together. I was brand new, fresh in teaching. He had
been doing a little teaching. We sat in on each other's classes and he
said to me one day, "You go in there and sit down at the desk and keep
looking at your notes. You are flat as can be. But when you get up on
your feet and talk to people, it is an entirely different person." I was
conscious of the fact that something was lacking, and so from that time
on I think I never did sit down in a class again. I pretty much
abandoned the practice of extensive notes and just went in with what I
had, which usually turned out to be enough. So I credit him very much
with helping me to develop my teaching skills, whatever they may have
D: Was that when you first came here that you taught a course together?
R: That was within the first year or so of my coming here, yes.
D: What course did you teach?
R: Several, but this was a course that we made up. It was a Public Law
course that consisted primarily of Constitutional Law and Administrative
Law, and also encompassed legislation, both from the standpoint of
legislative procedure and interpretation. That was a course that I think
was a marvelous course, and I think it should still be taught. I think
the material that we developed--I did more work on them later after he
left--were quite useful in letting neophyte students have some awareness
of the public side of the law. I will say two other things, and I do not
know what use you can make of any of this, but they are thoughts that
occur to me and I will just express them.
First, I think nobody should feel that he can learn to write or teach in
any way other than by doing it. Doing it the best he can and doing as
much of it as he can. I have done a very great deal of writing and
teaching, and every time I have done something in either field I have
learned something new. The real teacher of writing or teaching is the
doing of the thing. My final thought is that one who would write or teach
better have an understanding spouse. Barbara figures very much in this
because she has been very supportive. There are many discouraging days
when you are writing and when you are teaching especially in the
beginning. I suppose there are in any kind of professional activity. You
need someone to keep helping you along a bit, and she had done that very
well. Now, I do not know whether this is the kind of noise that you want
to hear from me or not.
D: This is very useful. Is Professor Miller still teaching?
R: I think he is. I am not sure. Did you ever hear of Hal Crosby? [Harold
Bryan Crosby, Professor, University of Florida College of Law, (1959-
1964)] Was he here when you were here? He was vice-president for awhile
at this school?
D: No, I think that was right before I was here.
R: They were very good friends. Hal Crosby was a student at the time that
Miller was working on developing the Law Review. I think he was the first
editor of the University of Florida Law Review. I think that is how
George happened to go to teach out there in Pensacola. I believe Crosby
was president out there. I do not know whether he is teaching now or not.
D: You were raised in the Chicago area?
R: Yes, Oak Park is just west of Chicago.
D: Then, you attended the University of Rochester.
R: Yes, I studied four years at the University of Rochester.
D: How did you come to study in New York?
R: Well, I was awarded a prize scholarship. They had a very active alumni
organization in the Chicago area, and I do not recall how I heard about
this, but I attended one of their promotional receptions. I talked to the
people, and they became somewhat interested in me, and we exchanged
information, and they awarded me a scholarship for four years. After that
was safely in the bank, I told them that they had awarded the scholarship
to the wrong student because I had a sister who was brighter than I was.
This was a coordinate educational institution--Rochester--in those days;
they had two campuses, one for men and one for women. So she went through
the same ritual and wound up also with a prize scholarship. They were
awarded on what they called the RHODES scholarship plan, and on the basis
of character leadership, scholarship, and athletic ability. Those are the
things they said they considered in awarding those scholarships.
D: What is the name of it?
R: Prize. It was an alumni-funded prize scholarship in the sense that you
won the prize.
D: You said sports or athletics was one of the considerations. Were you
already playing basketball at that time?
R: Yes, I played. I had won a letter in basketball, two I guess, in high
school. And I and another guy founded the golf team at the Oak Park High
D: I understand that you studied English?
R: Yes, by the narrowest of margins. Father really was business oriented by
this time, and he thought I should study economics and that sort of thing.
So I became an economics major, initially. But in my junior year, I
switched to English as my major. I had what would be called a "thin"
major. I did not take as many English courses as people who had started
majoring in English.
D: What were your plans at that time?
R: When I was in college?
R: I think in those days people, many times, had fewer long-range plans. I
was trying to grow up. I really was not concerned too much about five or
ten years from then when I was in college. I did think a little bit about
it. When I got into English in my junior year, I suddenly got interested
in studying courses in the English area, and I then thought I would like
to go on and do graduate work in Engish and teach English. I suggested
that to my father, and he thought that was a very poor idea. He was not
domineering, so he did not veto it; but he thought that what I should do
first was to go either to law school or business school. After I did
that, I decided to do something else again, but he felt that I should
study law or business first. That is how I went to law school. I
respected his suggestion, and I thought that of the two, the lesser evil
seemed to be law school. I did not go to law school charged with any
great excitement or hoping to emulate Oliver Wendell Holmes. I just
thought, it cannot be all that bad. I had friends at the University of
Michigan Law School a year or two ahead of me, people that I knew well,
and it sounded agreeable enough. So that is how I went to law school. I
cannot claim any great excitement about it.
D: So when did you decide to stick with law and give up the teaching career
R: Well, I do not suppose I ever did entirely. I think it always stuck in
the back of my mind that maybe I would teach or write, or both. These are
things that I had had an interest in for a long time but the war postponed
the need for an immediate decision.
I was in the navy, in their B7 V-7 program, and commissioned an ensign
after ninety days. I went in in the summer and graduated from
midshipman's school in New York in December of 1942. This was one of
these hurry-up training programs for young officers of the line. We then
were going to go to various kinds of ships and you got your choice of
ship, depending on whether you had done pretty well in school. I had my
choice and chose a destroyer. I thought that would be what I would really
like to do. If I had to be in service I felt I would like to be in the
navy, and I would enjoy a small ship. So I was assigned to a destroyer
that was not quite finished. It was being built, so I went to Norfolk
from Columbia which is where the midshipman school was, the University of
Columbia. I went down to Norfolk to await the ship, and while we were
there we had additional training--fire training and all sorts of things.
One type of training was judo training, and in that I suffered a kind of
accident. I banged heads with another person, which began a difficult
period for me. Unconsciousness initially, and then some related problems,
which caused me to wind up in the hospital, and then later, in the
National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, a beautiful enormous
place. It was new when I went there, and even though I was a midshipman,
I was an officer, and had a big room all to myself. I was there for
several months and was operated on. I had a minor kind of little brain
operation by a person named Captain Craig. He was a captain in the navy
and the head neurosurgeon of the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota. He
performed surgery to see if they could find what was causing problems with
my vision and migrain headaches and that sort of thing. They told me
after this exploratory operation that they had not accomplished anything,
that they were disappointed. As a result of that, the wheels ground kind
of slowly, but I was subsequently discharged. I mention this because we
come full circle in 1980. That is the thing for which I was operated on
just after I retired. And then they did find, indeed, did I tell you this
D: Just a little bit of it. Go ahead.
R: They found a malformation of blood vessels in my brain--right back here in
what they call the left orbital section. I think it was an improper
connection of the veins and arteries in such a fashion that the strong
pulse of the artery tended at times to crack through the weaker tissue of
the vein and cause bleeds, as they are now called. This caused the
migraine and eye trouble, and sometimes black outs. Well, they had partly
diagnosed this in the navy. The skilled neurosurgeons of that time were
on the right track, but they did not have the marvelous diagnostic things
that they have today. A surgeon who lives about three good wood shoots
over this way, a friend of mine named Ron Mauldin, who has better
equipment, a scanner and all, was able to accurately identify this. He
operated on me for seventeen and a half hours. Four surgeons using
microscopic techniques, were able rotationally with great skill, to remove
that. I have got some little lumps here. I accused Mauldin of not
replacing his divots. He is a golfer too. I also told him after I was
partly recovered that I was reminded of a remark by Harvey Cushing, who I
think is the most famous of all neurosurgeons. He said, "Never pull on
anything. You just do not dare pull on anything in the brain because you
pull a little bit here and you pull a little bit there and the first thing
you know, you are pulling on the soul." He was jesting, but only partly.
This is apparently a standard gag in brain surgery. So I told Mauldin
later that I thought he must have pulled on my three wood wire because I
was not able to hit my fairway woods after I got around to playing golf
again. But in any event, I am talking too much. The point is that the
enormous change in the skill of surgery and medicine that occurred between
1943 and 1980 enabled people who are very competent people--possibly not
nationally prominent--to handle with great success a problem that baffled
the best neurosurgeon in the world at that earlier time. It is
D: Well, have they corrected that problem now.
R: Yes, they have. The only thing it leaves me with is a visual'problem
which cuts off my peripheral vision to the right entirely. It is not only
peripheral, I do not see anything to the right. I have half. Imagine
looking straight ahead and seeing only half of what is before you. That is
what I have, not one eye or the other, just half of the field. It took
awhile to get used to that I can tell you. But I was lucky in that I have
the left field and I am right handed. For instance, if I could see only
to the right I probably could not play golf, or at least I would have to
become a left-handed golfer. It was just a lucky break.
D: Well, good.
R: Is this too much baloney for your tape?
D: It sounds like your father was very interested in your getting an
R: No question about it. My parents were both for it.
D: Did your mother work?
R: No, she never worked. Her father was a fairly prominent person in
Chicago. He was on the Chicago Board of Trade, and when he died, as a
matter of fact, he was the oldest member at that time of the Board. They
were not especially well-to-do, but comfortable, and he had a nice summer
home. We had a less-elaborate home next to his on a lake in Wisconsin,
which is where I spent summers until I was about sixteen.
D: What was your mother's name
R: She was named Annie Lucretia Badenoch. Badenoch is my middle name.
D: Your rather casually decided to study law?
R: In a way I drifted into it.
D: It was wither law or business.
R: It was not put to me quite cold turkey, but yes, I think so.
D: How did you decide to go to the University of Michigan?
R: First of all, even in those days it was known as a very fine institution,
so it was a place that would be worth going to. Secondly, I had two
friends who were there two years ahead of me, who had been very good
friends and fraternity brothers at Rochester. I think that had something
to do with it.
D: Did you work your way through school or were you on a scholarship?
R: No scholarships there, but an education was not awfully expensive in those
days. Well, the living accommodations on a comparable basis were. But, I
lived in what they called the Lawyer's Club, which was comfortable living
the whole time I was there. I shared a three-room suite right on the law
quadrangle with another person. We each had a bedroom, and a common study
room with comfortable chairs and two desks and so forth. But it was not
expensive by present standards. It was expenisve, I guess I would have to
say, for my parents sometimes. Times were pretty tough. I did work. I
worked in college in addition to my scholarship. I worked some in the
college cafeteria squeezing orange juice early in the morning and that
sort of thing. Then I worked at Michigan. I had an opportunity in my
second year, I do not recall that I worked my first year. But in my second
year, I became the assistant of the person who had a small store in the
Lawyer's Club. This was a supply store--paper, ink and cigarettes, and
chewing gum. Just a few things like that. But it was a lucrative little
store and he paid me a pittance. My real pay came in my getting the store
the next year. So my third year I was pretty self-sufficient.
D: So you finished up your schooling before you ever went into the military.
D: You graduated in 1942.
R: Yes. There is a quirk there that may not be of any interest. I went
one summer to the University of Colorado to summer school. As a result of
that, I was able to complete my law study in one summer at the University
of Michigan. I was able to complete all my law courses at mid-year in
1942-1943. But by that time I had signed up for the navy, and one of
their prerequisites was to take some math courses that I had not had. I
did not accept my law degree when I finished my law courses because I
wanted to remain a "LW" student, a law student. I stayed in the Law Club
as a law student, but studying only math courses for that last semester.
Incidentally, I knew Mr. Macdonald slightly at Michigan. [William Dickson
Macdonald, Professor, University of Florida Colege of Law, (1948-1984)]
He had graduated from Osgood Hall in Canada and then he came to Michigan
as a graduate student, and we overlapped one year. But we were not
D: That is interesting. Did you continue to play basketball through college?
R: Yes, and I earned my letter at the University of Rochester in basketball.
I played golf. I played, however, only one intercollegiate match. I was
never a star athlete by any means. I was always on the fringes. I was
about the seventh or eighth man on the golf team and five people played.
On the basketball team, that would be about the same way, I used to get
into the games and play some.
D: After graduation you went into the navy and then went to Washington?
R: Yes, when I was discharged from the navy I was in Washington at the
Bethesda Medical Center. While I was still at the center after my
operation, I was up and about with a shaved head to be sure, but able to
get around and permitted to go and come as I wished for several weeks.
In that rather odd-appearing condition, I undertook to go around and see
if I could find a job.
A friend of my father's--my father was dead then-recommended Covington &
Burling as the outstanding law firm. in Washington. So I said, "Well, what
have I got to lose? I will start there." They were losing people to the
military. It was not quite an ordinary situation. But anyway, they
looked upon me as something of a catch since I was coming out of the
military, I guess. Or at least they were willing to take me on, and that
is how I formed my relationship with Covington & Burling. I stayed there
for half a dozen years. I did take one year's leave, very much against
their wishes, right at the end of the war to go to Germany with Charles
Fahy, who up until then was Solicitor General of the United States. Fahy
was appointed to be the legal adviser to General Eisenhower in Germany
following the war. I suppose largely because of my connection there with
Covington & Burling, which was an extremely well-known law firm, it was
easy for me to ask Mr. Fahy if I could join his staff, and I did. I went
in June of 1945 and stayed until July of 1946. We went to Frankfurt first
and then almost immediately to Berlin, which is where the principal, so-
called quadrapartite government of Germany was located. That was in
reference to the American, British, French, and Russian governments of
There was what was called the Legal Division of Military Government whose
function was to consider and propose legislation that would be operative
in all parts of Germany, not just in the United States zones, but in all
areas. We were supposed to put that into proper form in each language so
that the occupation would be carried on in a fairly uniform fashion. We
worked on that. I would like to think I contributed something but in all
honesty, in a year you do not learn an awful lot about that sort of thing.
We pushed the ball along some. We went down frequently to Stuttgart, the
headquarters of the West German government. I had nothing to do with the
trial of the major war criminals.
Well, I saw that first hand, but that was not why we were there. I spent
the most interesting time, I guess, interviewing a person named Von
Knierian who had been General Council for the I. G. Farban Company of
Germany. We were interested in studying the relationship between the
Hitler government and big business. To what extent did a dictatorship
such as the Hitler dictatorship operate by forcing big business to do
certain things. We were studying that and studying the cartelization of
big business in Europe. This was interesting. We made some reports and
some studies that found their way into use, I guess.
D: That would be interesting.
R: It was.
D: When did you begin working for Covington & Burling?
R: In June of 1943, about a month before I married. I married on June 30,
1943, to my present wife.
D: You met her in Washington?
R: Yes. In fact, I met her in the navy. She was an ensign too, in the
physical therapy department. Not one that I had anything t do with. They
were worrying about my noodle, but I ran into her there.
D: You said you became interested in tax law at Covington & Burling.
D: How did you become interested?
R: By doing it, by being told to do the problem and by sweating it out. This
is the difference these days. Many more people go into tax practice with
a good bit of training, even if they go in just out of law school. We had
a course that was called "Taxation" at the University of Michigan. It was
really as much Constitutional Law as anything. These days, we turn people
out with at least some rudimentary knowledge of the federal income tax.
Then, if they have an interest in it, many of them continue and take
our graduate program or some come back for that purpose. That is what we
like best. After they have had a little time to practice, they may come
back and study tax somewhat more intensively. In any event, even before
there were lots of trained people, there were all those problems.
The sequence of this, you see, is that before 1913, taxation belonged to
the accountants to the extent that there were any serious taxation
problems. There were lots of problems, but no federal income tax. When
the amendment was ratified and we all of a sudden had a federal income
tax, there was a vacuum, really. There just were not enough people
trained to handle tax problems. There were no lawyers who were seriously
interested in income tax. The law schools did not consider it a matter
worth training people for. As a matter of fact, I saw that same
situation in England when I was there much later. English lawyers, until
recently, have not been trained much in tax. I made the acquaintance of a
person who was offering a seminar at Oxford, a very famous person named
Ash Wheatcroft, who was on the faculty of the London School of Economics.
Oxford had finally asked Ash to offer a seminar to their Oxford students
so that they could, if they wished, at least get some training in income
tax. Well, it was much the same way in this country. There has been a
long transition here from practically no training, to an opportunity to
study rather deeply before you get into practice in the tax area. We have
been in the vanguard in that. N. Y. U., of course, had their graduate
program before tax instruction. I think that we do not lag behind NYU
anymore. We are doing some things a good bit better, I think, than they
are, and we have had very capable people from the outset teaching in that
area. That has not been entirely by accident, we have insisted on it. We
have insisted on full-time people because they are the ones who the
students have an opportunity to talk with. If you have part-timers, if
you have practitioners teaching, they are too busy, and rightly so. I
mean, they owe their time first to their clients.
R: But we have had mostly people who are devoting their full effort to
training students in the tax area. That is one of the very strong points
of this operation here.
D: You said it was before 1913 that it was handled by accountants?
R: It was the Sixteenth Amendment that was ratified in 1913.
D: Why is it important today for lawyers to be involved in taxation?
R: Well, in a sense it is not. I told my son, "You can do whatever you
want." He graduated from here about fifteen years ago from our law
school. I said, "Do not feel you have to study tax on my accuont. It is
just a question of whether you are interested in it." He is not a tax
lawyer. Fortunately, it appeals to quite a few people, but it is not more
important that we have more tax lawyers than other kinds of lawyers by any
D: Why is it important for lawyers to be involved, rather than just
accountants being involved?
R: Well, one reason for that is the accountants have a rather different
professional philosophy. I am not saying this critically. I am saying
it, really, with some admiration. They are trained to be objective. They
do not all achieve this, but they do not take sides as much in things as
lawyers. They call the shots and that is the way it is. Lawyers are
trained in advocacy and sometimes you need a person to pound on the table
for you and to put forth your position in as strong a light as possible.
Lawyers, I think, are a little better able to do that than accountants
are. Now, that is not the most important thing either, because the tax
law is laid over all of the other complicated concepts in our society. It
is not something that you study in a vacuum. If you have these things
going then they create tax problems.
R: Some of these things are not things that accountants understand. They are
not trained in that way. So if you have good legal training, then your
ability to deal with tax problems when they arise is greater if you are a
lawyer than if you are an accountant. By way of an aside, I also have
told students ever since I have been in the business not to try to
concentrate on tax law too much, too soon. You need a broad understanding
of what goes on in the world. The practice of the law is a very
interesting thing. There is not any part of the law where almost any
experience is not of some value to you. The more you know and the more
knowledge you can accumulate, the better chance you have of being a good
lawyer. That is true also in the study of tax law. The more you
understand of legal concepts and relationships, the better able you are to
deal with the tax problems that arise out of those concepts and
R: That is a pretty deep sort of thing. I do not know. Are we getting off
D: No, that is good. That is a very good definition. I understand that it
took awhile to develop the tax program at the law school. Did you have
any trouble convincing the administration and other professors that we
needed a tax program?
R: I had nothing but trouble. Not with everybody, but I had trouble with
some colleagues, let us start with them, who thought that I was "empire
building." I do not know where that term originated, but you know, you
see a certain element of jealousy if somebody is doing something that
seems exciting. Maybe it just does not look right. So I had trouble with
some colleagues on that score. Possibly on other scroes as well that I do
not know about, but that was one thing. I had trouble with the
administration of the law school. I might just as well name it because we
used to talk about it a lot. Namely, Henry Fenn, [Henry A. Fenn, Dean,
University of Florida College of Law, (1948-1958)] a good friend of mine.
But he would say, "Who would come here to graduate work?" Of course, I
was not very well-known at that time, although I was beginning to get
pretty well-known. It was about the time I published my first book, which
rather quickly was used all over the United States. I used to answer his
question in spades and tell him, "Well, Henry, we would have many
people from our own college who would study tax law here, and we would
have a smattering of people from all over the country. I say we would
have a minimum of twenty people. We might have quite a few more." Well,
he did not think that was so and that was all right. So it turned out the
first year that we opened up, even though we were fussy with who we
admitted, we opened up with a class of sixty or sixty-five. I had trouble
with my colleagues. I had trouble with the dean. I had trouble with the
dean of the graduate school, because he did not understand the nature of
our study. He would agree, he said to these students being awarded some
sort of "certificate" that said they had had this additional training but
not to any degree. Well, that was not the way it was done at N. Y. U.,
for example. He also had a little trouble understanding how people who
had earned a Juris Doctorate degree, would want to get a master's degree.
It is a step backwards, he said. Well, it really is not. It is goofy,
but still, that is the way it goes.
D: Who was dean of the graduate school then?
R: He was L. E. Grinter, [Linton E. Grinter, Dean of the Graduate School,
University of Florida, (1953-1969)] for whom that pile of rock is named.
I used to pound on the table over there, but I did not get far with
Grinter. When Grinter retired, I think just before we made a breakthrough
over there, Harry Sisler took over. [Harry Hall Sisler, Dean of the
Graduate School, University of Florida, (1975-1980)] I had known Harry a
little bit and he was a great deal moore receptive to my thinking and, in
fact, Harry and I became somewhat friendly. He appointed me to the
Graduate Council as soon as we had our program going. Anyway, I believe
that Reitz [J. Wayne Reitz, President, University of Florida, (1955-1967)]
was president at that time, and he was supportive after we got the support
of the graduate dean, and Steve O'Connell [Stephen C. O'Connell,
President, University of Florida, (1968-1974)] was always very
supportive. Of course, now we have another one of "our boys" in the
president's position, Marshall Criser, [Marshall M. Criser, President,
University of Florida, (1985-present)] who would likewise, I am sure, be
supportive since we sent one of our graduates to his law practice in Palm
Beach, not a graduate of the graduate program, but of the law school, to
do tax work in his firm down in Palm Beach. He is a very superb young
man. Trouble? Lots of trouble.
It took years. In fact, when my son came here to law school in the fall
of 1969, I decided I had better take a one year leave of absence because I
did not want to be underfoot, you know. I could go pretty much anywhere I
wanted to, really, at that time. I made arrangements to go up to the
University of Georgia to teach for that year. While there, I talked at
some length with Lindsay Cowen, who was dean of the Georgia Law School.
He is now dean of Western Reserve. Anyway, he was very eager for me to
bring that program to Georgia. In fact, Jack Freeland [James Jackson
Freeland, Professor, University of Florida College of Law, (1957-present)]
came up to Athens one weekend and we talked about it with Lindsay. We
ultimately decided we did not want to go to Georgia, but they would have
had.us set up there in no time at all. That was before we had things all
set up down here. I think maybe their active interest stimulated a
further response here.
D: What was Dean Maloney's reaction? [Frank T. Maloney, Dean, University of
Florida College of Law, (1959-1970)]
R: His reaction on the whole was favorable, I think. I am trying to get the
time right. Fenn retired, I guess, in 1958 and Maloney succeeded him.
R: Well, this is consistent with what I was saying because I do not think
that we go any immediate help from Maloney in getting started.
D: And then Dean Julin came in. [Joseph R. Julin, Dean, University of Florida
College of Law, (1971-1980)]
R: I should say this--that Fenn's attitude toward the law school--I have to
say it because it is true--was that he was anxious for this to be a good
law school. But what he meant by that was a good state law school.
Period. Some of us felt that was not a high enough objective that we
wanted to be a good school, nationally. Our program fitted into our
objectives, but went beyond his. I believe Maloney's views were were more
like ours, whatever his ability might have been. Julin has always been
extremely supportive of the graduate tax program.
D: I guess it began under Dean Julin.
R: You are right.
D: He came in in 1971.
R: Yes, that is right.
D: So he was supportive.
R: Yes. He was always very supportive.
D: Do you remember when you first thought about establishing the program?
R: It was in my mind when I got Freeland to come back here to teach. He was
one of our graduates in the 1950s and I guess you could look up when he
came back here to teach. But when he came back I was expanding the
regular J. D. tax offerings with the idea that that was the best way to
get prepared to offer graduates instruction in tax.
D: There were only one or two tax courses when you arrived, were there not?
R: Only one, really.
D: How was the program organized in the early years? How many professors did
R: I think we decided we could not go with less than five and one other
person to teach in the criminal law area. We had Freeland, Lind, [Stephen
A. Lind, Professor, University of Florida College of Law, (1970-present)]
Lokken, [Lawrence A. Lokken, Professor, University of Florida College of
Law, (1974-1982)] Miller, and me. Fenn taught a tax-related course in
fiduciary administration. I think that was the initial group.
D: The first year was 1975? I think that is when I read that it began.
Where were you located?
R: Well, there was no place precisely for the graduate tax program, but my
office building was the office on the third floor of the southwest corner
of the building, and in the adjoining secretarial office I put in a little
tax library for the faculty. I had something of a collection of tax
books, and we got some help from Betty Taylor, [Grace Elizabeth Taylor,
Assistant Reference of Bibliography, University of Florida College of Law,
(1950-present)] a law school librarian. I made these books accessible to
the tax faculty and sometimes to graduate students. Then we moved the tax
collection of the library itself up to the third floor, across from where
the offices of the tax program are now located. That became kind of the
graduate tax area. It was not designated as such, I think, but that is
where most of the graduate students studied, and we had some little
cubicles there for people who were working as assistants for the
professors, and that sort of thing.
D: I think the tax students still use that third floor?
R: I think so. That may change now, they are doing this other thing.
D: Yes. So you helped to establish the Richard B. Stephens Tax Research
Center at the law school?
R: Yes. There was no substantial tax collection when I came here, but I do
not claim any real credit for that. I mean, we were teaching and writing.
People came in and offered books to be bought and so forth, but they dealt
mostly with Betty Taylor in the library. I think the library should claim
the credit for it. Of course, they acted on our advice. But most of it
has been developed since most of us who teach tax were here. I do not
claim any special credit for it.
D: How do you feel about the Tax Research Center now that they are
establishing it? Has that come a long way?
R: I have a lot of feelings about it. One, I am enormously flattered that
they would name it for me. Secondly, I really do not have a good grip on
it because it is going to include some of the electronic marvels that have
come about in recent years that I really do not know anything about. But
I am pleased that that is so. I think it will help keep us ahead. I do
not know if there is any great virtue in being ahead, but I think it will
help the school to do a very good job in teaching taxation.
D: Did you teach tax courses solely when you arrived at the college?
R: No, I did not. I wanted to, but you had to double in brass in those days.
I taught primarily in the administrative law area when I was not teaching
tax courses. But I taught a lot of other courses too--Corporations. When
I visited Illinois, I stayed a second year and taught Agency,
Corporations, and Accounting--accounting for lawyers. Legal Accounting is
something I taught. I had long thought we ought to have an accounting
course in the law school. There were not many who agreed with me, but
always contained it is a perspective course. Because if you learn
accounting, it opens up an opportunity to learn about things that you
cannot learn about without that knowledge. The sum and substance of it
was when I got back. There was some agreement that we ought to have an
accounting course, but nobody was willing to teach it. It was a "well, if
we are going to have it, you are going to teach it" sort of thing. So I
did, for a year or two, having learned a little about it by teaching it at
Illinois. It was probably the hardest thing I ever did in my life. I had
very little formal accounting training myself, but I think it has been a
good thing to have that course. It also gives you a little confidence to
take on difficult things now and then and manage to do them.
D: How would you describe your approach to teaching taxation? It seems like
it would be a complicated subject to teach?
R: It is. I believe that my approach could be summed up by saying, "they
need all the help they can get." Some people would say that involves
spoon-feeding, a very derogatory term in law teaching. I do not know
whether we do a lot of spoon-feeding or not. But it seems to me the
height of absurdity to walk into a room and try to mystify people by
parading your superior knowledge when they are not with it. So there may
be four or five percent of the students who are with you. I never felt
that was enough and I worked pretty hard at making my classroom comments
understandable to those who had carefully examined the material in
advance. I felt that they were entitled to that. I guess that is as
accurate a summation as I could give of my philosophy of teaching that
D: You served as director of the tax program for two years?
R: I guess that is right. Although, the program really began before we had
any students because I had a lot to do to assemble the people and get
the curriculum established. And the new people that got here ahead of the
start of the graduate program were teaching in the undergraduate program.
So, I do not know. The numbers will speak for themselves, I guess. I
just do not have any idea, to tell the truth.
D: How do you feel about the progression of the tax program? Is it what you
expected would happen? What you wanted to happen?
R: Yes, I would say I am very satisfied with it. As I mentioned, I think we
had five just plain outstanding, well, I am including myself in that. But
I think the initial faculty was really just tremendously outstanding. We
had one other person in the criminal law area who may not have measured up
in all ways to our wishes. He had not had teaching experience. We tried
to lead him by the hand in that respect. He was an older person. A kind
of set in his ways practitioner, and it was difficult to get him to do
what we thought might be the best thing to do. I think that has been
corrected, but if there was any real weakness in the program it was in
D: What was the status of the program? The condition of the program when you
R: I think I would say off and running well.
R: In fact, off and running well with a good national reputation. I think
our applications for admission would reflect that.
D: Have you kept in touch with former students of yours?
R: Not so much as I would like to. Are you talking now about the tax
students or just generally?
R: Well, we had a marvelous experience with a particular group of students.
These were J. D. students some years ago. I do not know how this
happened. I am not one who was ever very friendly with students while they
were students. Although I was advisor to Phi Delta Phi and on good terms
with them, I was not buddy-buddy with them. But we had one group that
graduated all at the same time that included some very tremendous people.
Julian Clarkson [Julian D. Clarkson, University of Florida College of Law,
class of 1955] is one and Jimmy Kynes [James W. Kynes, University of
Florida College of Law, class of 1955] is another. Julian is with Holland
& Knight, and Jimmy is general Councel of the Jim Walter Corporation. And
Dexter Douglass, [W. Dexter Douglass, University of Florida College of
Law, class of 1955] who is an outstanding Tallahassee practitioner. Mitty
Adkins, [Milton R. Adkins, University of Florida College of Law, class of
1955] a Miami practitioner. There were about eight or ten who among
themselves were very close and after they graduated, the pattern developed
of their coming back to our home for Homecoming parties. As a matter of
fact,. Marshall Criser attended one of those parties. He was in that
class, I think. It must have been a class of about 1954, 1955, somewhere
along in there. For a long time that continued; they would all come back
for that party, and I used to see many of them at other times and some of
them stayed at our home and so forth. What happens, though, and I am
seeing it now in my own children, is that these people's children grow up
and all of a sudden they are not footloose. They have got things going on
for their kids and they come back less often and they are going in
different directions. So, for quite a few years now I have really not
been in close touch with graduates of the law school--either of the tax
program or of the undergraduate program. On the other hand, we went to
Orlando a couple of weeks ago for an awards ceremony. It is very
gratifying to find that even though you are not in day-to-day touch you
are not forgotten. So many of them had such nice things to say that I
felt that I was really not quite out of touch with them even though I do
not see them often.
D: That is good. Well, you received, I believe, two outstanding awards as a
professor, so you were obviously popular with the students.
R: No, that is the wrong way to put it, and I am not much in favor of that
kind of award, to tell the truth. This may sound bad, but I am going to
say it anyway because I always say what I think. It gets me into trouble
a little bit, but also people know that. For several years students had
thought they should make an award to the outstanding law professor, but
they could not figure out how to do it. The first such award was the one
I got, and that was an award that was agreed to by a coalition made up of
the law fraternities, the Law Review, the John Marshall Bar Association,
and one or two other student organizations that agreed together they would
select me for the award. That was the first time. Well, then having done
that, it became an annual thing and that is cuckoo, I think. I thought
when they awarded it to Leonard Powers, I should not say this because he
is dead, that depreciated that award very much. [Leonard Stewart Powers,
Professor, University of Florida College of Law, (1967-1972)] Now, before
that I had received an award from the Florida Blue Key, the same kind of
award. I think it was before that. That was a little different in that
it had a broader base. They can afford, I think, to made an annual award,
selecting from a larger number of people. But when you come down to
making an annual award for, as it was a few years ago, twelve or fifteen
people, what do you do? Just pass it around? What is the point of that?
So, I do not know, and also, what you said initially is likely to be true.
You said, "So I must have been popular." I do not know whether that is
true or not. I guess I was. I guess that is the way the award is
given. You know, a popularity contest. Why do they not call it the most
popular professor if that is the case? It does not sound nice to say
something like that about something that was awarded to you, does it?
D: As you explain it that way then it is understandable.
R: Yes. Certainly, I was honored at the time when the law students selected
me for that. It had not happened before and that was one reason I
particularly felt honored, and the Blue Key award was the first on that
had been given to someone in the law school. I felt that was quite an
D: Let me ask you about your activities since you retired from the college?
R: That is not going to take very long.
D: You said you have done some writing?
R: No, I said I am the most indolent person you know. Of course, when I
retired I was not desperately ill. I have always had a rather serious
problem with my vision and for many years have had serious respiratory
difficulties, but I was well enough, and we wanted to be away from
Gainesville for a time. This time it was because Freeland was taking over
as director and I thought I should be out of his way when he was getting
going in the tax program. So, I arranged to go out to the University of
California at Davis, to teach there. That was really a very nice
experience. My wife had never been west and we went out in the summer, I
guess in June. We were there about six months, though I did not teach
except in the fall term. It was an experience for her, of course, to see
the Grand Canyon and all that.
Davis is an interesting school. It would tell you a little to know that
it is.known as the Martin Luther King School of Law and it is the
youngest, I think, of the California law schools. It is very much Third
World oriented and that sort of thing. The people were awfully nice to us
and the students were highly receptive to my efforts, and I just have a
nice feeling about the experience there. It was very pleasant. I taught
only one course, but I taught five days a week. I taught that course each
of five days, which was really our basic income tax course. The faculty
were agreeable and stimulating, but I do not think the school measures up
to our school here. I do not know whether I should say that or not, but
it is true. So why not? While we were out there we had a chance to do a
little sight-seeing. To go down to see Big Sur and to play the Pebble
Beach Golf Course, where they hold the Bing Crosby Golf Tournament. And
go up the other way on the coast to see some of the terrifying coastline of
northern California. Cape Mendocino is one place. Have you ever been out
D: I have. I do not know if I was right there. We drove from the south up to
R: Mendocino is north of San Francisco.
D: Oh, no.
R: It is just beyond a big stretch of redwood forest, and it is the most
rugged chunk of coastline I have ever seen anywhere. But anyway, this
interested Barbara and we enjoyed that. We also attended the wedding of
one of my graduate tax students down at Santa Barbara. He married a girl
who is also a lawyer. They are both practicing in Seattle now, and they
had the wedding at her father's home out on a bluff that was about eighty
or 100 feet above the Pacific. It was just the most beautiful setting you
could imagine. They had enough of a yard away from the ocean to
accommodate the cars of sixty or eighty people for the ceremony. The
priest stood with his back toward the ocean, and there was enough shade
from a couple of palm trees to keep people cool. They also had a sit-down
luncheon outside overlooking the ocean. It was really a marvelous
D: It sounds like a perfect setting for a wedding.
R: Yes, we stayed at the old Biltmore Hotel in Santa Barbara, which is one of
the famous old places. That was very pleasant. Then we went back to
D: Were you at the University of California at Davis for a year?
R: No, just the fall term, but I went early to do some work with a Hasting
colleague, so we were there six months.
D: For a semester.
R: I came back here and the next year and taught a seminar. I guess I taught
a course the next year and a seminar the following year. I am a little
fuzzy on this. If you needed to, I guess you could check the catalog. I
had my continuing respiratory problem, and one time I wound up in the
hospital. I have asthma and emphysema, and when I get bronchitis, I am
about dead. That combination occurred toward the last week or so of one
of the classes that I taught. I decided about that time that I probably
should not do anymore teaching and should not go to the law school very
much. Because young people seem to collect respiratory diseases and the
law school is an incubator for those germs that are not menacing to most
people, but they are to me. As a result of that, and I guess I sound a
little timid or something, I pretty much stay away from the law school
D: That is smart. Especially with law students not getting any sleep, you
know they get sick.
R: Yes. Now on the other hand, I have done a great deal of writing. I have
two bound volumes that consist of nothing but Law Review articles that I
wrote; one was a nice surprise present from our first graduate tax class.
I have also written three books; two are treatises and the other is a law
school course teaching book that contains some quoted cases and similar
material. Two books are in their fifth editions. All are well-known
nationally. Although I do not mean to say that my work predominates in
all of them, I have always taken a part in all of the books. I continue
to go over the whole thing. I did not do much, I think, on an edition of
the Foundation Press book. That was pretty close after my major
operation. Although I did go over it, I did not in the way I normally
would. But I continue to do that. I have extraordinarily able people
whom I work with on those books. When I say that, I think primarily of
Lind, who has worked with me on so much. We work very well together, and
I think we complement each other pretty well. He has a tremendous
capacity for getting out the wash and I have a pretty good capacity for
refinement and making sure the wash is clean. I have enjoyed that. We
recently finished the fifth edition of our Foundation Press book, which is
a book that Mr. Freeland is on also. That has not yet come out. That
will be published next month. Right now I am not involved in any such
venture, and I miss it, because I to not have a lot of strength, and there
are not a lot of things I can do. I spend too much time doing too little.
Possibly, somewhat confidentially, as I believe this interview is, I
should stress that I am immensely proud of these books and in the matter
of professional accomplishment ranked them right along with the graduate
D: You said you play a little golf?
R: Yes, about a year or two ago, it got too much for me to go eighteen holes,
which of course, is the regular thing. So I said to my colleagues... Do
you want this?
D: Yes, I do.
R: Well, it is sort of interesting. I said, "Look, I think I can play every
other hole because then I will have a little time to rest between holes.
Can we try that I think I have a game that we can play that will be fun
if I can do that." They are great people. This is Paul Tarrant, John
Mahon, and Rayner Johnson, by name. Tarrant, one of the country's
greatest chemists, and Mahon, one of the country's great historians, and
Johnson, also a great chemist who retired a short time back from Dupont,
ten years ago perhaps. I used to tell my secretary, when I was still
working, when I would go out in an afternoon to play golf with these
people that I was going to attend an interdisciplinary meeting. She knew
what that meant and so did everybody else. I never did hide that because
I worked hard enough so nobody could care whether I was taking Tuesday
afternoon off, you know.
D: Is this Judge Mann?
R: No, this is John K. Mahon.
D: He is the one that you said might be good for our history project.
R: Yes. Mahon is the author of a book on the War of 1812 and I told you also
about his book The Second Seminole War." I have mentioned that to him and
you might want to consider him. Do you know anything about golf?
D: Yes, my father plays regularly and I play a little.
R: This is easy then. Well, we have matches, you see, when two of us stand
the other two. We get a point for the best ball on a hole and a point
against us for the worst ball. So the way I play is I always play hole
number one. If I am playing the odd holes, one, three, five, etc., then I
carry my score from one to number two. If I have a bogey on number one, I
have a bogey on number two without playing. Then I play number three. If
I have a par on number three, I par number four without playing it. And
so on, right through the round until we get to the last hole, and I always
play number eighteen. The result is that I play five holes on each side.
If it is the odd holes, one, three, five, seven, nine, on the front, and
eleven, thirteen, fifteen, and seventeen, and eighteen on the back. We
bet a little bit, about fifty cents a side, but I have a ball that has a
score on every hole so that I am a part of the match. Is that not pretty
D: That is.
R: I think I am going to patent that. But then, if I play the even holes, I
also play one. Then I play two and the rest of the even all the rest of
the way--two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen, eighteen.
That gives me five on the front--one, two, four, six, eight--and on the
back, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen, and eighteen. So I play five holes
a side and we have a bet on each side, you see, and it works out
D: That is great. Do you know who would be interested in that, I bet, is
Professor MacDonald, he likes to play.
R: He says he is going to play when he retires.
R: Well, he and I used to play years ago.
D: Did you?
R: Yes, ask him about my eight iron.
D: So, golfing, writing, and editing. Any other interests?
R: Yes. I have a few little investments and I push them around, and I read
the Wall Street Journal. I read about three newspapers ever day. I read
the Gainesville Sun and the Florida Times Union and the Wall Street
Journal. Sometimes I do not get around to all three. That is quite a lot
D: That is. You mentioned working well with Professor Lind. How did you get
along with Professor Freeland? Did you work well with him?
R: Fine, really. And we still get along all right. I know a lot of people
do not get along with him and it is unfortunate. He is a person of really
very great ability. I do not want to trudge too much into this area. I
think he has a certain fondness for me that maybe overrides some things
that otherwise would cause us more trouble. I have no difficulty with
him. When I was running the graduate tax program, he was always as
cooperative as he could be. We have had some sharp differences which need
not be recorded.
R: The cooperation I got from most everyone says something, because I had no
position. I just started the program. You see the only way I was director
was de facto. I finally made myself "director" to be able to sign letters
to applicants and to people we were thinking of hiring, or something like
that. There was no line item that said Director of the Graduate Tax
Program. I was just Professor Stephens. I guess I have to say this: I
am really quite proud of that because I was able to lead that program
without any whip just because the guys were willing to go along with me on
it. It really worked marvelously. It is amazing because I had to ask
them to do things they sometimes did not want to do--teaching a particular
course, you know, or at a particular time. They were very, very kind to
me. I must say that. I do not know when that became a de jure position.
I think it is now. It should be.
R: But we just kind of crept into this, you see.
D: Well, when you were within the program did you provide leadership? Were
you coordinating the different courses that were offered?
R: Absolutely, I have done that for years. You see, the one who handles that
graduate tax program, if it is still done that sme way, really has to
handle the tax program for the entire law school because there are just so
many tax instructors and you have to teach all the tax courses, not just
the graduate courses. You have to get all of them taught. You have to
coordinate things so that there are people available to do this and that.
It is really like running a small law school.
That is what, I am sure, David Richardson has found out. [David M.
Richardson, Professor, University of Florida College of Law, (1986-
present)] We have compared notes a little bit since he has been here. He
agreed that he never realized quite what was involved, but it is a
difficult job and you have to keep your balance in it. This was why I
mentioned a while ago that I literally often urged students not to take
our undergraduate tax course--to take Jurisprudence or something like that
instead, you know. The trouble is that these guys get so eager. They
know they want to be tax lawyers, a lot of them these days, and they know
that that is a good program. They know that there are good people
teaching in that area. They say, "Well, we want to take these courses."
So we put some limits on what they could take. I do not remember the
details anymore, but we not only tried to talk them out of taking courses,
we just would not permit them to take more than a few tax courses as
undergraduates. I think that is sound. I think that has to continue. We
would put out a terribly warped trade school kind of character, you see,
if we did it any other way.
D: I think there were a couple of questions that arose as we talked. You
mentioned your son. Do you have other children?
R: Yes, I have a daughter. I talked to her just before you came. She is in
Washington, and her husband is a highly successful private practice lawyer
in Washington. They live in Alexandria in a somewhat older house that
they just completely remodeled. I guess I will never see it as remodeled
because I do not travel that far. Mrs. Stephens is hoping she can get up
there pretty soon to see it.
D: Was your daughter interested in law? Or what areas did she study?
R: It just so happens that her husband and I share a certain Victorian
feeling that your wife should not work outside the home. We know that
they work. But she taught for a year or two after they were married. She
taught for a year in Rochester in a grammar school before they were
married and for a year in Ithaca, which is where her husband was going to
Cornell Law School. She retains a keen interest in teaching and has some
novel thoughts about teaching, especially younger children, and
occasionally does some substitute teaching. I do not know exactly. She
is an awfully busy person. She has three children, five to fourteen.
D: Is that what her education was in?
R: Beg your pardon?
D: Is her education in the education area?
R: That is what it would be called here. I dislike the term, but I guess I
have to say, yes. I hope I am not treading on any toes, but I think that
the education people are guilty of something that could happen in the law
school. That is, too much pedagogy and not enough substance. I think
you ought to get people educated as really good people and then, if it is
necessary, teach them how to teach.
R: But instead of starting in as an education major, you know. This makes my
hair stand up on end. I am old-fashioned.
D: What is your daughter's name?
R: Susan. N. M. N., I guess they say. No middle name, which was very
distressing to her. But she now has one.
D: What is her married name? Or does she continue to use Stephens?
R: Winn. My daughter-in-law followed much the same course. She has done
some teaching, but now has two youngsters to take care of. He is also in
the Humane Society, among many other things. She is the Humane Society in
Lakeland, and you know about what it amounts to.
D: You said that you were not buddy-buddy with the students. How would you
describe your relationship with your students?
R: Cordial and puzzling. I say that for this reason. I invariably kept an
open door when I was teaching. Even when I was director of the program,
my door always stood open. That was the door between my office and the
secretary's office. But I used to tell students, "Please come to see me
if I can help you." I did say that I wished they would come with a well
thought out question or several questions I was most happy to talk with
them. But I did not want them to come in and just say, "Well, I just do
not know what this course is all about?" Or something like that. Maybe
that frightened people away. Maybe I should not have said that, but I had
fewer students coming to see me than I expected. Possibly I am a little
austere, or something like that. I do not know. I hope not. If I
attended a social function I have the usual bunch of students around me to
talk to and seemingly they were interested in me, so I do not know.
D: Finally, I wanted to ask you about your son and where he is practicing.
R: He is with what I consider the best law firm in the state. That is
Holland & Knight. I knew Senator Holland years ago. [Spessard L.
Holland, Governor of Florida, (1941-1945)] He was a Phi Delta Phi and we
often shared the speakers' table at Phi Delta Phi functions, especially at
Homecoming breakfasts and that sort of thing. But he was dead before Rich
went to law school. Chesterfield Smith was the principal partner when
Rick went down there. [Chesterfield Smith, University of Florida College
of Law, class of 1948] I inducted Chesterfield into Coif, as a matter of
fact, when I was president of the local chapter. I did not have anything
to do with his going there really. I would like to make that clear. He
did remarkably well in law school. He led his class. I think I had
nothing to do with that. As I said, I was not even here the first year
and he took only one course from me. That was a course in which there
were about sixty students, thank goodness. I was hardly aware of his
presence, you know. But I often wonder. I really have never talked to
him much about that--what kind of an experience that was for him. This
sounds like a typical parental remark, I suppose. He has been enormously
successful in practice. He is in municipal bound work which, even if not
to his liking, at least fits his ability very well. He is becoming known
national for his work in that area. He very often is called upon to go
to New York where he works with the large law firms--Sullivan & Cromwell
Cravath, and so forth.
D: Where is he?
R: He is in Lakeland, but that firm has eight or nine offices in Florida.
R: He worked one summer with them while he was in law school and that led to
their asking him to come back to work there when he graduated.
D: That covers about all my questions. Anything that we have not covered
that you would like to talk about?
R: No, I guess not. You know, when you get old you get a little maudlin
almost, especially when you have been thinking about all these things on a
day like this. I am inordinately proud of my little family. Both my son
and my daughter and their spouses, I think are just class-A people and how
lucky can you get also to have just marvelous grandchildren? None of them
has six toes (I say that figuratively). I mean, all five are bright, and
they are nice to their grandparents.
D: That is important.
R: Yes. Of course, my only other close relative is my sister who is a twin.
She is the one I mentioned--the smart one--and she was smarter as a matter
of fact. She was a Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Rochester. I was
not, but she was. I see her, she comes and spends two or three weeks with
'is. Again, how lucky can you get? She and my wife hit it off very, very
R: I am comfortable financially, much of which is my own doing. I do not
know how anybody could set up a happier circumstance than that. We like
it here. We like our house. I designed this house all by myself. I had
a builder carry out the design that I made. He did all the technical
drawings. I designed it to scale. I mean, it really is the way I made
D: You did a good job.
R: Well, I like it. We did not make many mistakes. I do not suppose there
are very many people who can have such a happy circumstance as that at my
age. I have to realize that sometimes when I get kind of down, because I
do with my health.
R: But it has been pretty good, really.
D: Wonderful. How long have you lived here in this house?
R: About eight years now. I built another one over on the other side of the
golf course, a smaller house. This house has three bedrooms and two baths
over here. Big rooms, nice rooms, that we cut off, you see, and use only
when we have visitors, children and grandchildren. We can and have
put up the whole kaboodle of them, five grandchildren and both sets up
parents, comfortably, as a matter of fact.
D: Well, good. Any changes that you have seen at the law school that stand
out in your mind that you want to mention? You were there for a long
R: I think the school is maturing in a good way. I never have stood much in
awe of administrators. Some administrators I have disliked rather
heartily, I am not talking about law school administrators, just
university administrators who seem to have felt that their positions
existed just for their own sake or something. Whereas, an administrator,
whether he be the director of our little program or the president of the
university, is there primarily to facilitate the work of the students and
the faculty. That is his main job.
R: Sometimes it has not seemed to go that way exactly at the law school, but
I think it is now. I do not really know Tom Read very well. [Frank T.
Read, Dean, University of Florida, (1981-1987)] He has been most kind and
gracious whenever I have seen him and came to see me when he came here. I
have been very favorably impressed with him. I think I am not mistaken,
just from my small observation he may be, as Julin was, a kind of outside
dean. I think he is very good at meeting people around the state, and I
think we benefit from that because he is our image to most people. He is
the one that goes out. They look at him and they think of the law school.
As far as I can see, he is doing a very good job. I think in that
respect, Julin did. That is exactly the opposite thing I would do if I
were dean. I would be staying home and working on the curriculum and
chopping here and there, cutting down. The curriculum is absurd, I think,
right now. And considering whether guys were doing what they really could
do and trying to help them. But I am not by any means saying that that is
what should be done. I am just saying that is is a different personality.
It is a different sort of person and I think maybe and outside dean is the
best kind of person for that job. It has certainly got to be done. When
I say the law school is maturing, I think that, for instance, when our
program started out we were quite defensive. I mean, we knew we were
doing a good job, but not many people knew that--here or anywhere. We do
not have to worry about that anymore. We are known and respected. I
think that is true. I do not know it in detail, but I suspect that is
true of quite a few parts of the law school. That development has been
parallel to our tax development. This was a pretty sleepy, little old,
"you all" kind of law school thirty-five years ago. It really did not
amount to much. Not that a lot of very outstanding people did not come
out of it. That is another thing people do not understand. You do not
have to have a great law school to turn out some great people. They are
going to be great if they have it in them wherever they go. But I think I
like the development in the law school. And now this new facility, I
think, will be a great help to people--the physical facility. So my
feeling about the law school is that is is growing up and growing in the
D: I am out of questions, believe it or not.
R: Well, that is good. We have talked mostly about me. I am not out of
answers, but I am out of gas.