Big Names in Tax

One of the odd little tidbits you pick up as a law student is an episodic familiarity with the names of various federal officials. If you get sued (or sue) in your official capacity, your name may wind up on all sorts of famous cases. True, the cases will be cited by the name of the other party (precisely because your name is on so many), but still, your identity will leave traces in the record—and in the minds of students.

Thus, for example, I know that there was an EPA head named Costle (Douglas, it turns out), and a Secretary of the Interior named Lujan (he was and remains a Manuel). IRS commissioners, all in all, are the most memorable: the Lucases, the Eisners, and, of course, the Helverings.

I had a brief hope of reconstructing the entire early history of IRS commissioners from the names of leading tax cases, but it turns out that there have been quite a number of them. While looking around for a canonical list, I found this neat page from the IRS, which lists the longest-serving and shortest-serving commissioners. One reason Guy Helvering is so famous, I now realize, is that he served for so long—and, ironically enough, he was immediately followed by the shortest-serving commissioner in the history of the office.

Oh, and one more thing. While Googling for all of the above, I also turned up good old Mrs. Macomber’s first name: Myrtle. Just another marvelous detail that fell by the wayside in the casebook editing process.