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James Browning

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Judge James Browning (AP Photo/9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — James Browning, the nation's longest-serving federal appellate judge, has died. He was 93.

Browning served on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after President John F. Kennedy appointed him in 1961 until 2000, when he assumed semi-retired "senior" status until his death Saturday in a Marin County hospital. Browning also served as chief judge of the San Francisco-based court from 1976 to 1988.

"He loved the 9th Circuit and was devoted to maintaining its cohesion, its collegiality, and its judicial excellence," said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who served on the 9th Circuit from 1975 to 1988.

The 9th Circuit's massive Beaux Arts courthouse, which survived the city's 1906 earthquake, was named after Browning in 2005.

"Judge Browning served on our court for more than 50 years, including 12 years as our chief judge," 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said. "In that time, his name became synonymous with that of the Ninth Circuit and he is rightfully the eponym for our historic headquarters building in San Francisco."

Browning was born in Great Falls, Montana and received his law degree from the University of Montana law school in 1941. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, rose to the rank of first lieutenant and won a Bronze Star medal. After the war, he worked in the U.S. Department of Justice until leaving for private practice in 1953.

In 1958, Chief Justice Earl Warren appointed Judge Browning to serve as clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States.

President Kennedy first met Browning during the president's inauguration, when Browning held the Bible while the president swore the oath of office. Browning was the last clerk to do so; the honor now goes to the president's spouse.

Browning is survived by his wife of 70 years, Marie Rose, whom he met in high school. He is also survived by a daughter and three grandchildren.

PAUL ELIAS, Associated Press

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