I'm sad to note here that Jonathan Forman, long-time tax professor at the law school at the University of Oklahoma, has left us. He died of a brain hemorrhage on Monday. He was 69.

Jon was a prolific writer as well as a fine teacher. He published many dozens of excellent articles, and at least one important book. Most of his scholarship was dedicated to analyzing how the U.S. tax system affects working people, and how it could be improved to reward hard work and yet promote economic justice. 

Forman was a smart cookie, as most tax lawyers are, and he managed in his later years to become a real expert at the in's and out's of pensions, both public and private. He had lots of ideas about improving the rules under which retirement plans operate. And not just the gold-plated retirements for the head honchos; he was more interested in protecting the golden years of the worker bees. Among the systems he knew well were Social Security and Medicare.

All kinds of people practice tax law, from cold-hearted economists to warm-hearted helpers. Jon was on the far end of helper. For example, for many years, he and his students volunteered locally to assist the average guys he wrote about, in filling out their tax returns. Everything he did professionally seemed to be, in one way or another, about supporting people – particularly those who get up every day and go to work, but also those who can't.

Forman and I first met around 25 years ago, when he came out to Portland to speak at a conference I was moderating about taxation and the family. It was obvious within a few minutes of meeting him what a kind and thoughtful person he was. He cared a lot more about people than he did about money. After the conference, at which we all learned a great deal, I took some of the conferees up to Timberline to see the sights. It was grand company, and we had a ball.

I would run into Jon at conferences occasionally over the years. In fact, if I saw him in a crowd, I would seek him out. He was always a pleasure to hang around and share ideas with. One year, he and I played hooky for an hour or two from a stuffy law professor confab in San Francisco. We headed over to the Haight Ashbury District to try to see what had become of the '60s. I remember looking at vintage postcards in a thrift shop with him. I still have the T-shirt I bought that day, and in the summertime when I wear it, I always think of Forman.

His loss will leave big holes in lots of places. My condolences to his family, his colleagues, and his students on his sudden departure.