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Robert J. Kelleher, 99; oldest serving federal judge

By Linda Deutsch
Associated Press / June 22, 2012
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LOS ANGELES — Senior US District Judge Robert J. Kelleher, the oldest serving federal judge in the nation and once an important figure in US tennis, died Wednesday at the age of 99 at home in Los Angeles.

Judge Kelleher’s death was announced by 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.

Judge 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 Nixon in 1970.

Judge Kelleher was a tennis champion who captained the triumphant 1963 US 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.

Judge Kelleher leaves a son, R. Jeffrey Kelleher; a daughter, Karen Kathleen Kelleher; and three grandchildren.

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