Samuel B. Sterrett, a Washington, D.C. native, and a summer resident of Lake Placid, passed away on Sept. 8, 2013, surrounded by his loving family after a brief illness. He was 90 years old.
He had been a summer resident of Lake Placid for decades. The family purchased a home in Lake Placid village in the late 1970s. He first visited the Adirondacks as a child with his father on regular camping and fishing trips to Raquette Lake.
Samuel "Sam" Sterrett was born Dec. 17, 1922 in Washington D.C., the third child of the Rev. Henry Hatch Dent Sterrett and Helen Black Sterrett. His father was Rector of All Souls Memorial Church in Washington, DC. His grandfather, the Rev. Dr. James Macbride Sterrett, was the Founder of All Souls, and Head Professor of Philosophy at The George Washington University. Sam graduated from Amherst College (1947), University of Virginia Law School (1950) and New York University (LLM in Taxation) (1959).
He served in World War II, joining 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 U.S. Merchant Marines and was accepted into and graduated in 1945 from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, Long Island, recognized later as a B.S. in Marine Transportation. He served in the Merchant Marines during 1943 to 1946, much of the time as a Second Mate on tankers carrying aviation fuel in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. His time in the U.S. 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 was honorably discharged from the U.S. Naval Reserves in 1956.
He began his private law practice in 1950 in Washington D.C. before moving in 1956 to New York City to work at the Office of Regional Counsel, Internal Revenue Service. In 1960, he returned to private law practice in Washington D.C. In 1968, he was nominated by President Johnson and then confirmed to the U.S. Tax Court, filling a vacancy.
Judge Sterrett was reappointed to two consecutive 15 year terms, first by President Richard Nixon in 1970 and then by President Ronald Reagan in 1985. He was elected by his peers to serve as chief judge in 1985 and again in 1987.
In 1988, he left the court to return to private practice, first opening the Washington, D.C. office of New York City's Myerson & Kuhn and later serving as Of Counsel at Vinson & Elkins from 1990 until 2002. He then maintained his own practice from 2002 to 2007.
Equally rewarding to his professional life, Judge Sterrett had a long and distinguished involvementin the community. Prior to joining the U.S. 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 (Chevy Chase, Md.) from 1970 to 1974, including as Chair from 1972 to 1974.
Having grown up as the son of an Episcopal 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 theMid-Atlantic. In 1967, he began his tenure on the Board of Trustees of what now is known as MedStar Washington Hospital Center, Washington, DC'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 started expanding to become one of the region's largest health care systems, MedStarHealth. Judge Sterrett again served on the Board of Directors of MedStar Washington Hospital Center from 1998 to 2007. At the time of his second retirement from the Hospital Center's Board, the Trustee Conference Room was dedicated in his honor.
Judge Sterrett spent his summers in Lake Placid village, where he enjoyed the scenery and watching internationally recognized sporting contests, particularly the Lake Placid Ironman, Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Classic, and Annual Rugby Tournament. For decades, he regularly played the Lake Placid Club golf courses. Judge Sterrett was able to spend three weeks in Lake Placid a few weeks before his death, with his family. He took particular pleasure when Mayor Randall informally declared Dec. 27, 2012, his 90th birthday, "Samuel B Sterrett Day" in Lake Placid village.
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. In his final days, his doctors were very impressed with his continued physical strength.
Sam is survived by his wife of 64 years, Jeane McBride; three children: Sandy, Robin and Douglas; and two grandchildren: James and Henry.
A memorial service for Judge Sterrett took place on Oct. 29 in the Washington National Cathedral, and the Committal took place on Sept. 18, 2013, at Rock Creek Cemetery, both in Washington, D.C.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. Eustace Episcopal Church, 2450 Main Street, Lake Placid, NY 12946.