In Remembrance: John B. Huffaker ’46 Died on October 2 2023

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John B. Huffaker, longtime lawyer, tax expert, international philanthropist, pilot, and veteran, died Monday, October 2, 2023, in his home in McLean, Virginia, after a brief illness. 

He was born November 1, 1925, in Nashville, Virginia. Graduating from high school during World War II, he was accepted into the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corp at Yale University, where he completed the coursework for a bachelor’s degree in engineering in two and a half years. Yale sent him his diploma a few months later when he was serving on the USS Delta in the Pacific, making him technically the class of 1946 although he left campus in 1945. It was a grueling course of study, and he said that 6 out of 7 failed to complete it.  He did retain some happy memories of life at Yale, and a “Yale Bowl” street sign!  He attended many Harvard-Yale games and reunions over the years, reuniting with classmates and lobbying Yale to reinstate the NROTC program, which offers a full scholarship in return for five years of service, bringing a group to campus who otherwise could not attend, and exposing other students to the ethos of military service.

Demobilized at the end of World War II, he attended UVA Law school on the GI bill and graduated first in his class in 1948—at the age of 23. The Korean War meant some more time in uniform, where he served on the staff of the commander, Naval Forces Philippines, as an intelligence officer, and Admiral Larson’s preferred bridge partner. He also met his first wife, Grace Huffaker, in Manila (Radcliffe ’47), where she was a writer and editor for the US Information Service.

After the Korean war he returned to the practice of law and quickly found his footing and his passion in tax law. Prominent for his expertise in tax regulations and estate planning, and much in demand by individual clients, government agencies, and organizations of all kinds for his detailed analyses of complicated financial issues, John fashioned a law career that spanned nearly six decades.  He joined Pepper, Hamilton, and Scheetz, now Troutman Pepper, in Philadelphia in 1966, served for years as chair of its tax department and practiced well into his 80s. As the Joint Committee on Taxation’s attorney in the 1950s, he was heavily involved in drafting the 1954 Tax Reform Act. Colleagues remember him for being adept at cutting through complexity and creative in his problem-solving procedure. He appeared before the Supreme Court in 1986 and was active with the American College of Tax Lawyers, the American Tax Council, American Law Institute, and other groups. He was also recognized for mentoring women tax attorneys at the firm in the 1970s, offering opportunities to participate in conferences and coauthor papers when, in the words of Joan Arnold, now chair of the Troutman Pepper tax department, “that simply wasn’t done.”

As a philanthropist, Mr. Huffaker was former board chairman of Pearl S. Buck International and its Welcome House adoption program, leveraging connections he made during the Korean War to help women and children in the Philippines, Korea, and Taiwan.  The government of the Philippines named a building after him and his first wife, Grace, in recognition of their work. 

He was a trustee at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church and freely assisted other religious organizations such as the Hutterite Community of New York and the Cistercians. One church leader called him “a lawyer with the right mix of humility and principle, and a man of deep personal faith, integrity, and intellectual curiosity.”

He was a private pilot, loved to travel internationally, and retained his intellectual curiosity until the end. He was also known for his positive attitude, southern gentleman graciousness, and consideration for others.  

After the death of his first wife Grace in 1989, John married Judith Hudson Webster, who also predeceased him. He leaves behind his daughters Meg Huffaker and Christiana Huffaker Logansmith, and grandson John Huffaker Logansmith. Donations in his memory may be made to the John B. Huffaker ’48 Memorial Unrestricted Endowment online at UVA Law School, or the Pearl S. Buck Foundation.

—Submitted by the family.

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