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    George Roudebush Catlett 1917-2013
    memorial posted June 5, 2014 by Nancy Maciag, last edited June 5, 2014 
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    George Roudebush Catlett 1917-2013

    George Roudebush Catlett (1917-2013)

    George R. Catlett, the senior technical partner of Arthur Andersen & Co. from 1962 to 1980, died on October 10, 2013 in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. He was born on August 14, 1917 in Fairmount, Illinois, where he grew up. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees in accounting from the University of Illinois and was hired in 1940 by Arthur E. Andersen to join his firm in its Chicago office. He did procurement work for the Army Ordnance Corps from 1942 to 1946, becoming a major. He rejoined Arthur Andersen & Co. as a manager, and, after Andersen died in 1947, Leonard Spacek succeeded him as managing partner. 

    Catlett became a partner in 1952. He served in the firm’s St. Louis office from 1953 to 1958, following which he returned to the Chicago home office and in 1962 was elected chairman of the firm’s committee on accounting principles and auditing procedures. He became Spacek’s right hand, drafting his speeches, but he also spoke and wrote extensively himself. His long tenure as chairman of the committee ended in 1980, when he retired from the firm.

    With partner Norman O. Olson, he wrote Accounting for Goodwill, which was Accounting Research Study No. 10 sponsored by the Accounting Principles Board (APB) in 1968. In 1973, Arthur Andersen & Co. published a collection of Catlett’s and Olson’s speeches and articles under the title, In Pursuit of Professional Goals: Addresses and Articles 1960-1972.

    In 1965, Catlett succeeded Spacek on the APB and was as one of the most active members of the board until he stepped down in 1971, having served when the board issued most of its significant pronouncements. He was APB vice-chairman from 1968 to 1971.  He was the lone dissenter in 1970 to APB Statement No. 4 on accounting principles, because he believed that the determination of what should be the objectives of accounting was an urgent matter that had not been settled in the Statement. He dissented to APB Opinion No. 17 on intangible assets, because he, like Spacek, believed that goodwill should be deducted from stockholders’ equity. He would have dissented to Opinion No. 16 on business combinations, also issued in 1970, but for the fact that his negative vote would have scuttled the Opinion, and the board had agreed that both Opinions had to be approved else the SEC would have issued regulations.

    Ever the gentleman, Catlett could disagree without being disagreeable. He staunchly supported Spacek’s crusade to rid GAAP of optional treatments and to establish the objectives of financial accounting.

    He was president of the Illinois Society of Certified Public Accountants in 1966-67 and was vice-president of the AICPA in 1976-77. 

    In 1982, he published a book on the Catlett families in Virginia and Illinois.

    He married Martha Jane Beamsley in 1944. He is survived by four sons, their children, and a sister. His wife died in 2007.

    - Stephen A. Zeff