Samuel J. Lanahan Sr., 79, tax expert


Samuel Jackson Lanahan Sr., a tax expert and founding partner of the prominent Washington law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, died Friday of a pulmonary embolism at a hospital in Torquay, England. He was 79.

Known as Jack, he was a resident of Trappe, in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore, since he retired in 1981. He also had a home in Dartmouth, England, where he was vacationing at the time of his death.

The Baltimore native was the son of William Wallace Lanahan Sr., a prominent philanthropist and investment banker, and Margareta Pleasants Bonsal. The family lived at Long Crandon, which overlooks Loch Raven Reservoir near Towson.

He was a 1937 graduate of St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H., and earned a bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1941.

While at Princeton, Mr. Lanahan boxed intramurally and, in 1940, won the Middle Atlantic Golden Gloves light-heavyweight title. He fought professionally for a brief time under the name of Sam Stout, whose name he derived from Elmer Stout, a bartender in Princeton, N.J.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1941 and was an assistant navigator aboard the USS Card, a destroyer that won two presidential citations for sinking German U-boats in the Atlantic. He later served as navigator aboard the destroyer USS Osage during the Okinawa campaign in the Pacific and was discharged at war's end with the rank of lieutenant.

Mr. Lanahan earned a law degree from Columbia University Law School in 1950 and moved to Washington, where he joined the office of chief counsel of the Internal Revenue Service. He later served as counsel for the Joint Congressional Committee on Taxation.

In 1954, he and Reuben Clark formed the law firm of Clark & Lanahan, which specialized in tax matters. The firm merged with Wilmer & Brown.

In 1962, Mr. Lanahan became a partner in the firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering and headed its London office for several years. He retired in 1981.

"He was a well-respected and highly regarded tax expert," said John H. Pickering, senior counsel of the firm. "He was an all-around, first-rate fellow, who was active in both civic and charitable affairs."

Long active in Democratic Party politics, Mr. Lanahan took leaves of absence in 1960 and 1968 to work as an advance man in the presidential campaigns of John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey.

He was also active for many years in Family and Child Services of Washington and served on the board of United Way of Easton.

Mr. Lanahan was an avid sailor who worked as navigator aboard a winning vessel in the challenging Newport-Bermuda race several years ago.

His 1943 marriage to the former Frances Scott Fitzgerald, daughter of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Zayre, ended in divorce. A son, Thomas Addison Lanahan, died in 1973.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete yesterday.

He is survived by his wife of 30 years, the former Sheila Nevius; a son, Samuel J. Lanahan Jr. of Salem, Ore.; two daughters, Eleanor Anne Lanahan of Burlington, Vt., and Cecilia Lanahan Ross of Kennett Square, Pa.; a brother, W. Wallace Lanahan Jr. of Ruxton; his stepmother, Eleanor Addison Miles of Queenstown; a stepson, Theodore Nevius of Cambridge, Mass.; a stepdaughter, Katherine S. Nevius of Washington; and eight grandchildren.

Pub Date: 6/03/98

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