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Oldest serving federal judge, appointed by Nixon, dies at 99

Obit_Kelleher.jpg

U.S. District Court shows Senior District Judge Robert J Kelleher, who was the oldest-serving federal jurist in the nation, dies at 99 years old.AP

Senior U.S. District Judge Robert J. Kelleher, the oldest serving federal judge in the nation and once an important figure in U.S. tennis, has died at the age of 99 in his Los Angeles home.

Announcement of Kelleher's death Wednesday came from Chief Judge Audrey B. Collins of the Central District of California who called him "a great judge and a dear friend."

"Judge Kelleher contributed to the life and history of the court and continued to handle cases well into his 90s," she said.

Among key cases he presided over was the late 1970s espionage trial of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee. The case became the basis for a book and movie, "The Falcon and the Snowman." The defendants, childhood pals from good homes, were convicted of conspiring to sell classified secrets to the Soviet Union.

Kelleher, born in New York City, was a graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School. He was appointed to the federal bench by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970.

Kelleher was a former tennis champion who captained the triumphant 1963 U.S. Davis Cup team. He and his late wife, Gracyn Wheeler Kelleher, won the mixed doubles championship in 1947. She died in 1980.

He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000 and received his Hall of Fame ring just a year ago on July 3, 2011. As a leader of national and international tennis organizations he helped usher tennis into the modern era.

Kelleher is survived by a son, R. Jeffrey Kelleher, daughter, Karen Kathleen Kelleher and three grandchildren.

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