Samuel Black Sterrett (Age 90)
Retired Judge, US Tax Court
Judge Sterrett, a Washington, DC native, and a summer resident of Lake Placid, New York, passed away on September 8, 2013 surrounded by his loving family after a brief illness.
Samuel "Sam" Sterrett was born December 17, 1922 in Washington DC; the 3rd child of Rev. Henry Hatch Dent Sterrett and Helen Black Sterrett. He grew up in the then family home Springland in Northwest DC, a home built in the 1840s. His father was Rector of All Souls Memorial Church in Northwest DC. His grandfather, Rev. Dr. James Macbride Sterrett, was the Founder of All Souls, and Head Professor of Philosophy at The George Washington University.
Sam graduated from St. Albans School, Amherst College (1947), University of Virginia Law School (1950), and New York University (LLM in Taxation) (1959).
He served in World War II. He joined the U.S. Army in 1943. As part of a physical to join the Army Rangers, a heart murmur was discovered, and he received a disability discharge. Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the US Merchant Marines and was accepted into and graduated in 1945 from the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, Long Island, NY, recognized later as a BS in Marine Transportation. He served as a Second Mate on tankers carrying aviation fuel in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. His time in the US Merchant Marines remained with him throughout his life, stating that it "taught me duty to country, appreciation for the sacrifices of others, and admiration for people of all backgrounds."
He began his law practice in 1950 at Alvord & Alvord in Washington DC before moving in 1956 to New York City to work at the Office of Regional Counsel, Internal Revenue Service. In 1960, he returned to Washington DC as partner at the law firm of Sullivan, Shea and Kenney. In 1968, he was nominated by President Johnson and then confirmed to the US Tax Court, filling a vacancy. Judge Sterrett was reappointed to two consecutive 15 year terms, first by President Nixon in 1970 and then by President Reagan in 1985. He was elected by his peers to serve as Chief Judge in 1985 and again in 1987. In his capacity as Chief Judge, he was responsible for assigning all cases, reviewing all opinions by his peers, and budget and appropriation matters with Congress. In 1988, he left the Court to return to private practice, first opening the DC office of Myerson & Kuhn and later serving as Of Counsel at Vinson & Elkins from 1990 until 2002. He then maintained his own practice from 2002- 2007.
Judge Sterrett was a member of numerous professional organizations, including American Bar Association, Fellows of the ABA Foundation, American College of Tax Counsel, J. Edger Murdock American Inn of Court, District of Columbia Bar, Lawyers Club of Washington, DC, and Virginia State Association. He also was a member of several social clubs and other organizations, including Alfalfa Club, Alibi Club, Chevy Chase Club, Metropolitan Club, and The Society of the Cincinnati.
Equally rewarding to his professional life, Judge Sterrett had a long and distinguished involvement in the community. Prior to joining the US Tax Court, he was very involved in Democratic politics, particularly on the Presidential Campaigns of Ambassador Adlai Stevenson and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. In 1962, he ran a successful, but losing, campaign for the Maryland House of Delegates. He later served on the Board of Managers of Chevy Chase Village from 1970 to 1974, including as Chair from 1972- 1974.
Having grown up as the son of a Minister, Judge Sterrett became very active in the Episcopal Church, particularly the Washington National Cathedral and its affiliated institutions. He served on the Governing Board of St. Albans School from 1977-1981, and the Board of Trustees of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation from 1973 to 1981 and again from 1999 to 2007. He chaired the Foundation's Finance Committee for many years.
Judge Sterrett was also passionate about the provision of health care in the Mid-Atlantic. In 1967, he began his tenure on the Board of Trustees of what now is known as MedStar Washington Hospital Center, the City's largest hospital. He chaired its Long-Range Planning Committee that developed the foundation for the Hospital Center's intensive care tower that features specialized units for medical, surgical, heart, burn, renal, pulmonary and psychiatric patients. In 1979, he became chair of the Hospital Center's Board of Trustees and supported the Hospital Center's efforts to refine its mission to be the region's leading tertiary care facility and referral center. He remained chair until 1989, as the Hospital Center restructured itself and became Medlantic Healthcare Group that included the Hospital Center, what now is known as MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital, and Capitol Hill Hospital. Judge Sterrett again served on the Board of Directors of MedStar Washington Hospital Center from 1998 to 2007. He was quoted as saying he has "been involved because I feel I have been blessed, and I would like to see other people blessed too." At the time of his retirement from the Hospital Center's Board, the Trustee Conference Room was dedicated in his honor.
Judge Sterrett spent his summers in Lake Placid in the Adirondack Mountains, where he enjoyed the scenery and watching internationally and nationally known sporting contests, including ice hockey, Ironman, lacrosse, and rugby. He spent three weeks there a few weeks before his death. He grew up spending summers in the Adirondacks' Lake George Region.
His passions included first and foremost, his family and friends along with the Washington Nationals, Washington Redskins, golf and physical fitness. He was so committed to his regular work-out routine that the gym at the US Tax Court was named after him.
Sam is survived by his wife of 64 years, Jeane McBride; by three children, Sandy, Robin and Douglas; and by two grandchildren, James and Henry.