ABINGDON, Va. -- H. Emory Widener Jr., who for 35 years was a judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Maryland, has died. He was 83.
Judge Widener died Wednesday morning at his home in southwestern Virginia, Tom Schrinel, deputy circuit executive for the Richmond court, said yesterday. Mr. Schrinel said he had no additional details on Judge Widener's death.
Judge Widener was the nation's longest-serving federal appeals court judge until July, when he took senior status, a form of semiretirement for judges 65 and older.
Born in Abingdon in 1923, he was in the Navy from 1944 to 1949 and in the reserve from 1951 to 1952. He earned a bachelor's degree from Washington and Lee University in 1953 and worked in private practice in Bristol, Va., for more than a decade.
President Richard M. Nixon appointed Judge Widener to the federal appeals court in 1972.
During the 1990s, when the court built its reputation as one of the most conservative appeals courts, Judge Widener was typically included with the conservative majority, said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor.
But Judge Widener "was not as conservative as some of the other judges on the court," Mr. Hellman said. "He was closer to middle-of-the-road."
Bristol attorney Lynn Dougherty said Judge Widener exemplified the best the public can expect from a judge.
"Emory was one of the most respected jurists in the entire nation," Mr. Dougherty said.
Retired Judge Charles H. Smith Jr. remembered Judge Widener as a "lawyer's lawyer and an astute student of the law."