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Nation's oldest federal prosecutor decides to retire

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer
  • Oldest federal prosecutor to retire
  • John C. "Jack" Keeney joined the Justice Department during the Truman presidency
  • Keeney's career focused on organized crime

Washington (CNN) -- A living legend to generations of government lawyers during his 60 years at the Justice Department has decided to retire at age 88.

John C. "Jack" Keeney, by far the oldest Justice Department employee and perhaps the oldest and longest-serving federal civil servant in the nation, said Monday he will leave for good after 90 final days.

Keeney rose from rookie lawyer in President Harry Truman's Justice Department in 1951 to his current post of deputy assistant attorney general.

Ten years ago, Attorney General Janet Reno and her then-deputy, Eric Holder, named a Justice Department building in downtown Washington in Keeney's honor, but he kept working. Most of his career has been spent fighting organized crime, and he helped with the Watergate investigation.

Before becoming a lawyer, Keeney was a B-17 bomber pilot shot down and captured by the Nazis in the final months of World War II.

The announcement of Keeney's impending retirement was made by his boss, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, with a smiling Keeney sitting quietly on the side.

"Mr. Keeney is truly a legend who will be missed," Breuer said.

In a rare tribute, reporters joined Justice Department officials in applauding Keeney.