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Nation's oldest federal judge dies at 104


Judge Wesley Brown is shown in this June 2007 photo.


WICHITA, Kan. -- U.S. Senior District Judge Wesley Brown, the nation’s oldest sitting federal judge, has died at age 104.

Brown died Monday evening at Larksfield Place, an assisted-living center where he had lived for several years, Judge Monti Belot told The Wichita Eagle.

“There comes a time, and he was just ready,” Belot, who also sits on the federal bench in Wichita, told The Eagle.

Brown was appointed as a federal district judge in 1962 by then-President John F. Kennedy. In 1979, Brown officially took senior status, a type of semi-retirement. But he continued to carry a full load of cases for the next three decades. It was only in recent years that he began to lighten his workload.
Brown's long tenure on the federal bench rivals that of Joseph Woodrough, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, who had been the longest practicing judge in the federal judiciary when he died in 1977 at age 104.

 Belot said Brown had been in weaker health and had not come to the courthouse within the past month.

“I hope to be remembered as a good judge, and not just an old judge,” Brown told The Eagle last year, sitting in his office.

Brown graduated from law school at the University of Kansas in 1933. He was appointed a bankruptcy judge in Wichita in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

On March 8, 1962, Kennedy nominated him to a seat on the U.S. District Court for Kansas vacated by Delmas C. Hill. Federal judgeships are lifetime appointments.

Brown was known for his compassion for defendants, according to a 2010 profile in the Huffington Post.

In sentencing a 28-year-old woman to more than three years in prison in March 2010, he told the tearful defendant how much he and other court officials wanted her to succeed in the future. "As an old man, it is hard for me to say I am sorry it happened," Brown told her, according to The Huffington Post. "I know you will do the right thing. Good luck and be well."

The Associated Press and msnbc.com's James Eng contributed to this story.

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