Douglas County District Court Judge James Paddock hung up his robes for the last time on Monday.
In a museum where he presided over his first cases, a longtime Douglas County judge closed out his judicial career on Monday.
About 100 friends, family members and co-workers of Douglas County District Judge James W. Paddock packed the second floor of the Elizabeth M. Watkins Community Museum, 11th and Massachusetts, to honor the judge on his last day on the bench.
Paddock wept as he said goodbye to the court he helped shape and lead since 1972. But his remarks also were spiced by a sense of humor that his co-workers called one of his finest traits.
"It's been such a pleasure and a joy to work with all of you. In fact, I may put in for that fifth division," he said, referring to the judgeship recently approved by legislators and the state judicial administrator's office.
Paddock was the only judge to serve in the Seventh Judicial District's second division, which was created in the early 1970s. When he began his career in 1972, his office and courtroom were housed in the Watkins building because of space limitations in the Douglas County Courthouse.
District Judge Jean Shepherd said one reason behind Paddock's longevity was his ability to change with the times. She said Paddock helped ease the transition of women attorneys from office practices to work in the courtroom.
"Judge Paddock always treated me with the utmost of respect," she said. "Even when I was nine months pregnant with a 10-pound baby, he never gave me the slightest indication that I shouldn't be in his courtroom."
Among guests at Monday's reception was Jack A. Murphy, a Baldwin attorney who was appointed last month to succeed Paddock. Kansas Supreme Court justices Bob Abbott, Fred Six and Donald Allegrucci also were on hand, as was judge Jerry G. Elliott of the Kansas Court of Appeals.
After greeting guests, Paddock accepted cards and gifts such as an original drawing and a pair of bookends and a plaque from co-workers that read: "The best lessons are learned by example. Thank you for being a wonderful teacher."
That theme also surfaced in remarks by District Judge Ralph M. King Jr., who said it gave him "great security" to work with Paddock.
"All around Lawrence the last couple of weeks, kids are running around saying, 'School's out, school's out, teacher let the mules out' ..." he said. "But today, in the Seventh Judicial District, we're all saying, 'School's out, school's out. Somebody let the teacher out.' "