Sheldon Kaplan ’39, a prominent attorney in Minneapolis, served for decades as general counsel for the Minnesota Vikings, later joining the team’s board of directors. He passed away on May 31, 2011, at the age of 96.
Born in Minneapolis, Kaplan graduated from the University of Minnesota before enrolling at Columbia Law School, where he became an editor of the Columbia Law Review. Following graduation, he practiced in New York City briefly before joining the Army. As an Army police captain during World War II, Kaplan oversaw the transfer of war prisoners captured in North Africa.
Kaplan returned to Minneapolis after the war and set up a law firm—Kaplan, Edelman and Kaplan—with his brother, Sidney, who had served as a prosecuting attorney during the Nuremburg trials. That firm later merged with another local firm to become Maslon Kaplan Edelman Joseph & Borman, which Kaplan left in 1980 to become chairman of Kaplan, Strangis and Kaplan, where he continued to work until his death.
As the Vikings’ in-house counsel, Kaplan was instrumental in helping persuade the Vikings to join the National Football League rather than the American Football League, delicately helping to guide a quarrelsome board toward its final decision.
Kaplan joined the board of the Vikings in 1977; he also sat on the boards of Lone Star Industries, Bank Windsor, and North American Life and Casualty. An avid fisherman, he and his wife of 70 years, Helene, traveled the globe from Africa to near the Arctic Circle in search of the perfect catch.
In addition to Helene, Kaplan is survived by his children Jay, Mary Jo, Jeanne Burton, and Jeffrey Kaplan; grandchildren Michael Kaplan, Claire Cochran, Max Fitzmaurice, and Scott, Jarrett, and Lara Kaplan; and three great-grandchildren, three nieces, and one nephew.