Norman Leibovitz, 80, of Center City and Longport, N.J., a senior partner in the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP and a leading tax lawyer in Philadelphia for more than 50 years, died Tuesday, Sept. 19, of complications from Parkinson's disease at Penn Hospice Rittenhouse.
Mr. Leibovitz was the former head of the law firm's tax and estates department. He specialized in planning for succession in family businesses and guiding clients through the maze of tax laws, sometimes across more than one generation.
In announcing his death, Fox Rothschild said it was "deeply saddened by the loss of our partner and colleague. He was a member of Fox for 54 years, and a dear friend and mentor to many. He will be greatly missed."
Beyond the law firm, Mr. Leibovitz founded and served as chair of the Family Business Alliance at Temple University, where he lectured on income tax and estate planning.
He volunteered his skills as a member of the legal and tax committee of the Federation of Jewish Agencies of Greater Philadelphia, also serving as adviser to the agency's philanthropic fund. He volunteered his expertise to help the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Mark Silow, chair of Fox Rothschild, said Mr. Leibovitz was "the most intellectual and intellectually curious person" he has ever known. "He was a voracious reader and a student of everything from the Internal Revenue Code to opera," Silow said.
Born in 1937 in Philadelphia, Mr. Leibovitz came from humble beginnings. His parents, eastern European immigrants Abraham and Dora Leibovitz, ran a children's clothing store near the Italian Market.
He graduated from South Philadelphia High School in 1955, the University of Pennsylvania in 1959 with a bachelor of science degree, and Harvard University with a law degree in 1963. He followed that with a master of laws degree in taxation from New York University. He was the first of his family to attend college.
"What made Norman such an exceptional lawyer was his ability to combine his intellect and training at Harvard Law School with the street smarts and understanding of people that he developed as the son of immigrants growing up in South Philadelphia," Silow said.
Mr. Leibovitz lived his entire adult life in Center City, but also maintained a summer home in Longport, where he enjoyed watching birds and butterflies.
From time to time, Mr. Leibovitz liked to sound off in an Inquirer letter to the editor.
In 2004, he suggested a Penn's Landing site for the Barnes Foundation, which at that time was considering a move away from Merion, its longtime home. It eventually relocated its gallery to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
"If the Barnes collection is allowed to move, it could be a world-class attraction at Penn's Landing," he wrote. "It could attain iconic status like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles."
In 2008, he wrote again, praising the City of Philadelphia for providing entrée to citizen groups with an agenda, but faulting the city for not being as accessible to individuals. "It is not easy for potential volunteers to thread their way through the bureaucracy and find a place to help Mayor Nutter move the city forward," he wrote. "Where is the access door for volunteers?"
Mr. Leibovitz was married for 50 years to Gloria Hoffman Leibovitz. The couple had two children. "He was devoted to his friends, colleagues, clients, and especially his family," Silow said.
Mr. Leibovitz was known for providing "kind, patient, and wise advice" to friends, his family said. "He was the most loving husband, father, and grandfather anyone could ever want. He was always available to guide us through thick and thin."
A lover of knowledge, he was especially draw to the classics of western civilization, plus politics, philosophy, and history. "He was deeply conversant in a multitude of topics," his family said.
Also a classical-music lover, Mr. Leibovitz supported the Philadelphia Orchestra. He reached out and befriended several musicians.
Besides his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Cara; a son, John; six grandchildren; and a brother.
Services were Sunday, Sept. 24.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, 1901 Vine St., Suite 111, Philadelphia 19103.