(CN) – U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown, the nation’s oldest sitting federal judge, died Monday at 104, the District of Kansas announced.
Brown died Monday night at an assisted living center in Wichita where he lived, his law clerk told the Associated Press.
Brown was appointed as a federal judge in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy, and is the longest serving judge on that court.
After serving a seven-year term as the court’s chief judge, Brown took senior status in 1979. Though senior status is a form of semiretirement that allows judges to still carry a full or reduced caseload, Brown continued to preside over a full caseload for several more decades.
His tenure rivaled that of Joseph Woodrough, who was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. Woodrough had been the longest practicing judge in the federal judiciary when he also died at 104 in 1977.
Brown finally removed himself from the draw for assignment of new criminal cases in March 2011, but he still presided over cases after he turned 104 on June 22.
Brown once said that his job gave him a reason to live. “I do it to be a public service,” Brown told the Associated Press. “You got to have a reason to live. As long as you perform a public service, you have a reason to live.”
Congress honored and commended Brown on his 100th birthday in 2007.
The resolutionnotes that Brown worked on a Ford Motor Co. assembly line, helping to build Model A’s while taking night classes at the Kansas City School of Law.
“Whereas at the onset of the Great Depression in 1931, Wesley E. Brown was given the task of typing 3,000 ‘pink slips’ at the Ford Motor Company, including the last one in the pile, bearing the name of `Wesley E. Brown,'” the resolutions continues.
“Whereas Wesley E. Brown has been a living example of the American Dream, rising from modest means and succeeding through hard work and perseverance,” it also says.
Brown served in the U.S. Navy in World War II as a lieutenant stationed at Commander Philippines Sea Frontier.
He had two children with his first wife, Mary Miller Brown, whom he married in 1934. He married his second wife, Thadene Noel Moore Brown, 60 years later.
The resolution states that Brown has been awarded the Phil Lewis Medal of Distinction and lifetime achievement awards from the Wichita Bar Association and the Judicial Council of the 10th Circuit. It quotes him as saying, “As long as I can do the job, I’ll carry on.”