John Orrin Fox

daniel-anthony-phillips JOHN O. FOX, a longtime Amherst resident and seasoned tax lawyer who taught and wrote extensively about the social and political significance of the tax code, died on September 12, 2018 at age 79. He died of cardiac arrest in Sydney, Australia where he and his wife Gretchen were visiting their family.

John was born on October 6, 1938 in Los Angeles and grew up in southern California, preparing at Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills, CA where he excelled in academics and athletics. He graduated from Harvard College in 1960 (magna cum laude in History; member of Leverett House) and studied at the London School of Economics, before returning to California to earn an LL.B. in 1964 at Boalt Hall Law School in Berkeley, California.

John began his law career at the Arent Fox law firm in Washington D.C., while also earning an L.L.M in tax law from Georgetown Law School. In 1968, John co-founded the law firm of Sherman, Fox, Meehan and Curtin, where he worked until 2000.

In 1964, John married Gretchen Gause, who was organizing humanities outreach programs for the University of California Medical School in San Francisco. The two were introduced by John’s beloved sister, Myra Fox. While living in Washington D.C., the couple had two children, Joseph (1970) and Margaret (1973).

In 1985, the family moved to Amherst, Massachusetts where John continued to practice law, but also launched a teaching career. For more than three decades, John taught tax and public policy at Mt. Holyoke College. He also wrote many articles about tax policy and the books, If Americans Really Understood the Income tax: Uncovering Our Most Expensive Ignorance (2001) and Ten Tax Questions That the Candidates Don't Want You to Ask (2004). In his writing, teaching and public speaking, John sought to show the many ways tax law both reflects and shapes society's evolving political values. He argued that the tax code should be made simpler and fairer to promote social justice and a healthy democracy.

With his wife Gretchen, John was also active in Amherst political and zoning issues. He was an elected member of the Amherst Town Meeting for 25 years, and fought unsuccessfully in 2018 to preserve the town meeting form of government for the community.

John is survived by his wife, Gretchen G. Fox, his son Joe Fox and his partner Stephanie Schriock, his daughter Margaret Fox and son-in-law Andrew Carroll, and granddaughters Jessica and Hazel.

A private memorial service was held October 6, 2018, on what would have been Mr. Fox's 80th birthday. Contributions in his memory may be made to Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts, 15 Court Square, Suite 345, Boston, MA 02108.


Published (though this version is slightly revised) in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Oct. 10, 2018.