James J. Freeland
“Always be aware of others, but compete only with yourself”
James J. Freeland served the University of Florida College of Law as a professor for nearly 40 years. During that time, he cofounded the Graduate Tax Program at UF Law, now one of the top-ranked tax programs in the country, and instilled his passion for tax law into many of his students.
Freeland was born and raised in Miami, where his grandfather, Dr. James M. Jackson, practiced medicine and for whom Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital was named. Freeland’s father, Byron B. Freeland, owned Byron’s Department stores, the precursor to JByrons. Freeland earned his bachelor’s from Duke University in 1950 prior to attending the University of Florida College of Law, where he received his LL.B. and graduated second in his class in 1954. He then became a graduate fellow of Yale Law School. Upon graduation, Freeland was hired by Hugh F. Culverhouse’s Miami-based law firm. Freeland specialized in federal tax matters and went on to manage the firm after only one year of practice. This achievement is an early indication of Freeland’s work ethic and leadership qualities.
In 1957, Freeland returned to UF Law where he became a member of the faculty. With the exception of the period between 1962 to 1965, when he taught at New York University’s Graduate Tax Program, Freeland’s academic career was centered at the University of Florida, where he served as a UF Law professor until his retirement in 1995. As a protege of Professor Richard B. Stephens, he worked closely with Stephens to establish the UF Graduate Tax Program. Upon Stephens’ retirement in 1977, Freeland became director of the Graduate Tax Program and held the position until 1982.
While at UF, Freeland coauthored many books and articles, including the leading treatise Fundamentals of Federal Income Taxation, the most widely-adopted tax law case book in the U.S., and Federal Income Taxation of Estates and Beneficiaries. Freeland said that, for him, writing was a painful but rewarding endeavor.
A beloved professor, Freeland maintained relationships with many of his students following their graduations. He enjoyed the “big curtain of affection of graduates who have remained very friendly with [him] over the years,” and stated, “[i]t’s a mutual thing. Personally, I enjoy their success. Some are judges; most are outstanding lawyers.”
While teaching, Freeland preferred an unstructured style — eschewing standing behind a lectern and using formal notes. This allowed him the didactic flexibility to cover a multitude of topics and different aspects of issues. In defense of his teaching style, Freeland stated, “I’m told I’m unstructured. I just don’t like super order — you lose the spontaneity and this is what I seek. I’m not disorganized; there’s a difference. I’m unstructured.” Obviously, this unstructured style was not only popular, but also intellectually engaging and challenging for Freeland’s students. Freeland was known as a professor who could make even the most complex material understandable for his students, and many chose to pursue careers in tax law after taking his class. It was this connection with students that led to his being recognized as Outstanding Law Professor at UF five times between 1968 and 1975. He also taught practicing tax attorneys as a member of the tax faculty of the Practicing Law Institute from 1969 to 1976, and always received outstanding evaluations.
Freeland received numerous honors, including the Florida Blue Key Distinguished Faculty Award, the John Marshall Bar Association Outstanding Professor Award and the Florida Law Review Outstanding Professor Award. Freeland also was the first recipient of the Outstanding Tax Attorney in the State of Florida Award in 1982, which is presented annually by the Tax Section of The Florida Bar. He was inducted as an honorary member of Florida Blue Key, and in 1982, he was named a UF Distinguished Service Professor, the highest professional rank at UF reserved for those who have excelled in teaching.
Following his retirement in 1994, alumni, faculty and friends established the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar Chair in Taxation, and an anonymous donor endowed a scholarship in Freeland’s honor to benefit UF’s Graduate Tax Program.
Freeland served as counsel to the tax law firm of August, Comiter, Kalunas & Schepps in West Palm Beach, Fla. after retirement and until his death in 2000.