UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 05 Fall 16 Library
Tom Cogill
UVA Arts

100 Years Young – Mortimer Caplin’s Century Mark Celebration is a Family Affair

Mort Caplin with daughter Cate Caplin celebrating 100 years young

Mortimer Caplin has played many roles over the course of what is a truly remarkable American life. Some of the early roles came on the stages of the University of Virginia, where he was so involved in drama that he briefly considered it as a career. The world would have different plans for him, however. World War II found Mort Caplin on the front lines of the D-Day invasion. He would return to UVA to become the first Jewish law professor at the Law School, where his students included Robert and Ted Kennedy. Another Charlottesville connection, attorney Bill Battle, who served with John F. Kennedy during the war, introduced Caplin to the then-senator when Kennedy spoke at the law school in 1958. Caplin obviously made quite an impression, because after defeating Richard Nixon in 1960 President Kennedy called on Caplin to be the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. Caplin would go on to lead a highly-regarded Washington boutique law firm for a half-century and to be a noted philanthropist. Yet somehow, through all of these accomplishments, Mort Caplin kept his focus on his beloved family, starting with Ruth Sacks Caplin, his wife of 71 years, who died in 2014. So when it came time to celebrate his 100th birthday last summer, it made perfect sense for Caplin to be surrounded by family and friends at his beloved University of Virginia for a special reception in his honor. The icing on his 100th birthday cake came when the whole party moved across the UVA Drama Building lobby to take their seats to see daughter Cate Caplin direct the intimate musical Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins, in the theatre that bears her mother’s name!

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