Thomas A. Troyer

1933 – 2022
Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Thomas A. Troyer

Thomas A. Troyer, 88, a longtime summer resident of Wise River, died of natural causes on May 20 at his primary residence in Chevy Chase, Md.

Troyer was a pioneering figure in the development of U.S. tax law for charities. He served on the board of directors for many philanthropic organizations, including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Children’s Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Together with tax attorney Stanley S. Surrey, Troyer drafted the landmark 501(c)(3) section of U.S. tax law, which outlines requirements for charities seeking tax exemption. He made regular appearances on Capitol Hill to testify about best practices in the philanthropic field and ways to counter prior abuses such as self-dealing at family foundations and charities.

Though a leading figure in tax law, he was happiest in the outdoors, especially in Wise River, where he spent summers until illness made travel impossible. As a young man, he worked as a park ranger in Teton National Park in Wyoming and was a regular contributor to Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, and the American Rifleman. He was offered a job as hunting editor at Outdoor Life after graduating from college but chose to attend law school instead.

He was an avid fly-fisherman and bird hunter. He also enjoyed hiking and horseback riding and was a lifetime dog lover, especially his beloved Brittany spaniels.

Troyer was born on Aug. 15, 1933, in Omaha, Neb. He was the elder son of the longtime Douglas County (Neb.) judge, Robert R. Troyer, and Dorothy Darlow.

Troyer graduated from Harvard College in 1955 and from the University of Michigan Law School in 1958. He married Sally Jean Brown, also of Omaha, and started his legal practice in Denver at the Holme, Roberts, and Owen law firm. During this time he also served in the Air National Guard Reserve.

In 1962 Troyer moved his young family to the Washington, D.C., area so that he could work first for the U.S. Department of Justice in its honors program and later at the U.S. Department of Treasury.

While at DOJ, Troyer worked for Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy on the U.S. prisoner exchange with Cuba.

At the Treasury Department, Troyer worked in the Office of the Assistant Director for Tax Policy, then headed by Surrey.

After moving into private practice, Troyer was a leading writer and speaker on tax law and philanthropy. He lectured at various law schools, including those at New York University and George Washington University. He was a contributor to law reviews at the University of Michigan and UCLA.

He was the founding board chair for the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest, served as president of the Stern Fund in New York, and was a board member for the government watchdog group Common Cause.

Troyer is survived by his wife of 64 years, Sally, and by his four children: Kenneth D., 62, a fisheries biologist in Meridian, Idaho; Robert C., 61, of Denver, the former U.S. Attorney for Colorado; Virginia D., 59, an instructor at the University of California in Santa Cruz; and Thomas C., 54, a writer in Los Angeles. He is survived by nine grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, his family encouraged donations in his honor to the Natural Resources Defense Council. A private memorial will be held at a later date.