Roland V. Wise is not a name that will likely appear on American Express commercials.
But the former district director of the Internal Revenue Service in Utah did make a few headlines in his day - like the time he seized the bank account of J. Bracken Lee, former governor and noted tax protester. About that time, Lee invited Ronald Reagan to Utah to join in the tax protest movement.Still, those high-profile episodes were not all that plentiful. Although Wise appeared on television many times during his 22-year tenure as district director to explain many types of tax issues or announce some people had been charged with income tax evasion or failing to file, Wise doesn't have an easily recognizable face.
But he did get plenty of public exposure through radio interviews and newspaper stories in which he explained taxes.
At 74, Wise is active on several committees and in clubs, travels to see his five children and 17 grandchildren scattered in various parts of the United States, and still has time for church work and being with his wife, the former Gladys Bruderer.
Wise, who was an IRS district director longer than anyone in the agency's history, retired in January 1981 after 43 years with the IRS. Now his only connection with the agency is filing his own returns and occasionally seeing some former fellow employees socially.
For his efforts he remembers the death threats and lawsuits filed against him. But he still can remember the compliments he and his staff received from taxpayers even though they had to pay their money. And he can remember the unsigned letters containing checks from people who had a guilty conscience and wanted to make good on past tax debts.
A native of Salt Lake City, Wise lived in a house where Sears now sits at Eighth South and State Street. After receiving an accounting degree from the University of Utah in 1935, Wise got a job with Utah Oil Co. (now American Oil), but later took the U.S. civil service examination and passed.
He paid his own way for training in Washington, D.C., with the IRS and became a revenue agent. His first assignment was in Wichita and Salina, Kan., the home town of the IRS commissioner.
Wise said when he contacted people about their tax situation, either they said the commissioner didn't like them and that's why they were being audited or they knew the commissioner and an audit shouldn't be conducted. The commissioner never did intercede in Wise's work and that's why he is proud of his 43 years with an agency that tried to avoid politics.
In the days before construction of the Service Center in Ogden, all of the returns from Utah were processed in the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse at Fourth South and Main. It was a common sight to see lines of cars around that building on tax deadline evening when procrastinating taxpayers dropped off their returns to get a pre-deadline postmark and avoid penalties.
Tonight, Wise probably will be sleeping through the deadline.