Wilbur H. Friedman, Law School Supporter and Leading Tax Lawyer, Dies at 103

The longtime supporter of the Law School and distinguished tax lawyer died Dec. 16 in New York City.

Wilbur H. Friedman ’30, a longtime supporter of the Law School and distinguished tax lawyer, died Dec. 16 in New York City. He was 103.

Friedman, who was also a 1927 graduate of Columbia College, was an ardent fundraiser and donor to the Law School, where he graduated first in his class. He was a life member of the Law School’s alumni association and served as the first chairman of the Board of Visitors Executive Committee in 1977.
Among his many fundraising efforts was the establishment of the Harlan Fiske Stone Fellowship in 1970, named after the former Law School dean and U.S. Supreme Court justice who Friedman clerked for after graduation.
“He always held the Law School in great regard,” said Frances Friedman, his wife of 68 years.
The Law School established in 1986 the Wilbur H. Friedman Professorship in Tax Law, which was funded by the Edith C. Blum Foundation, which Friedman served as trustee. That chair is currently held by Professor Richard Stone.
Friedman received the Law School’s Medal for Excellence in 1983, when he recalled studying under legendary professors Karl Llewellyn, Harold Medina ’12, and William O. Douglas ’25, who later served on the Supreme Court. He was also part of the first Law School class to admit women.
“There were two of them, one of whom made law review, a harbinger of things to come,” Friedman said then.
But it was Harlan Fiske Stone who arguably shaped Friedman’s career the most. During the year Friedman clerked for him, the Supreme Court had many tax cases under review, and Friedman said Stone suggested tax would be a good field to specialize in.
After a year working on many tax cases at the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office—a job Stone helped him get—Friedman joined in 1932 the firm now known as Proskauer Rose. He chaired the tax department there for the next 50 years, one of the longest tenures in New York City law firm history, according to the firm. Friedman also oversaw Proskauer’s management from 1966–1982.