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Senior Judge Warren Urbom occupied a seat on the other side of the bench Friday in a U.S. District courtroom in Lincoln.

Joe Taylor, his 11-year-old grandson from Orlando, seized the opportunity to take the top spot, presiding over a room overflowing with judges, attorneys, family and friends, all there to honor Urbom's 44-year career on the bench.

Last year, Urbom, 88, sent a letter to President Obama saying he would retire to inactive status this month. 

He moved to senior status in 1990, although he continued to work full time. Urbom continued to be a presence on the fifth floor of the federal building until cutting back recently.

"My term has been one of thorough happiness," he told the president then.

But at Friday's ceremony, Urbom left the speeches to others: friends, judges and former law clerks and colleagues.

Senior District Judge Lyle Strom of Omaha said their paths first crossed 44 years ago at an induction into the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Urbom later would preside over Strom's swearing-in as a U.S. District Court judge.

"In my opinion, you were the epitome of a trial judge," Strom said Friday.

And, he said, it was a privilege working with Urbom.

Attorney Robert Grimit, who worked alongside Urbom back in the day, when the firm Baylor Evnen was known as Baylor, Evnen and Urbom, dug into the archives to find Urbom's first letters to the firm, seeking a job in 1953 at $250 a month.

Urbom wrote that they no doubt would find him to have many shortcomings, but he said he had an ability and willingness to learn.

Some umpteen years later, Grimit said, he still doesn't know what those shortcomings were.

"We thank you," he said, in a particularly touching moment. "You were a mentor to us. You gave us your guidance. You gave us your counsel."

Chief U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp called Urbom one of the greatest judges who ever lived and said, under his tutelage, she learned much about the practice of law and would not have become a U.S. district judge if not for him.

"You have set the bar for all of us," she said.

Then, Joy Taylor, Urbom's daughter, said her dad always said he would have done the job for free.

"If I could sum up what my dad would say, 'It has been a glorious 44 years,'" she said.

"We are now adjourned," her 11-year-old said, banging a gavel on the bench.

"Dad never used one," Urbom's daughter said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSpilger.

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Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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