March 5, 2009 — Mortimer Caplin, a University of Virginia law alumnus who served on the U.Va. Board of Visitors and the Law School Foundation, was recently honored with a medal from France and an award from the University of Virginia.
Caplin was admitted to the French Legion of Honor with the rank of Chevalier, or "Knight," for his contributions to the United States' role in the liberation of France during World War II. Awarded by the president of the French Republic, the Legion of Honor is one of France's highest awards, given as a testament to an individual's outstanding accomplishments, and Chevalier is the highest rank among Legion of Honor awardees.
During the Normandy invasion, Caplin served as a U.S. Navy beach master and was a member of the initial landing force on Omaha Beach. For his service, he also received the Medal of the Jubilee of Liberty.
The Legion of Honor was created by Napoleon in 1802 to acknowledge services rendered to France by persons of great merit.
Caplin was also named a 2009 Brennan Award recipient by U.Va.'s Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. Established in 1987 in honor of Justice William J. Brennan Jr. of the U.S. Supreme Court, the award is given to individuals who are selected based on their invaluable participation in the legal profession.
"These awards reflect values I've always held dear, such as an unwavering commitment to excellence and public service," Caplin said.
Caplin's contributions to public service, teaching and the educational process have been recognized by numerous organizations. He is a recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Law, one of the University's highest honors.
After graduating from the U.Va. School of Law and serving in the U.S. Navy, Caplin practiced law in New York City . He returned to the University as a law professor, specializing in tax and corporate law. Following President Kennedy's election, Caplin served on the President's Task Force on Taxation and in January 1961 was appointed Commissioner of Internal Revenue. He remained in that post until July 1964, when he resigned to form the law firm Caplin & Drysdale.
Caplin has served as trustee of many educational and charitable entities, including: the U.Va. Board of Visitors, the U.Va. Law School Foundation, U.Va. Miller Center of Public Affairs, George Washington University, Arena Stage, Shakespeare Theatre and Wolf Trap Foundation.