by John Hawkins | April 11, 2011 6:53 am
The best piece of advice that I ever got was, “Find something you love so much that you’d do it for free and find a way to make it into a career.” For me, that was writing and if I have my way, I’ll be writing for a living until they put me in the ground or figure out a way to make me into a machine-gun-wielding, immortal human cyborg. If you love what you do, retirement holds no appeal. That’s why I have so much admiration for Judge Wesley Brown.
In a courtroom in Wichita, the day begins much as it has for the past 49 years: Court is in session, U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown presiding. But what happens next is no longer routine; it’s a testament to one man’s sheer determination.
As lawyers and litigants wait in respectful silence, Brown, who is 103, carefully steers his power wheelchair behind the bench, his stooped frame almost disappearing behind its wooden bulk. He adjusts under his nose the plastic tubes from the oxygen tank lying next to the day’s case documents. Then his voice rings out loud and firm to his law clerk, “Call your case.”
Brown is the oldest working federal judge in the nation, one of four appointees by President Kennedy still on the bench. Federal judgeships are lifetime appointments, and no one has taken that term more seriously than Brown.×
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“As a federal judge, I was appointed for life or good behavior, whichever I lose first,” Brown quipped in an interview. How does he plan to leave the post? “Feet first,” he says.
…Brown has asked his colleagues to notify him if at any point they feel he is no longer able to do his job.
“I will quit this job when I think it is time,” Brown said. “And I hope I do so and leave the country in better shape because I have been a part of it.”
If he’s still sharp enough to do the job, why not keep working? What is he supposed to do? Go sit in a rocking chair in Florida and channel surf until he kicks the bucket? Nothing against anyone who finds that appealing, but if you can still work for a living and make a contribution doing a job that you still love at 103, then I don’t think there’s a tropical beach in the world that’s so nice it could top that.
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