Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edward R. Becker was a natural. He applied the rarest gifts of mind and heart to the exact position for which they were best suited. His loss last month is felt both generally and personally. The line of legitimate mourners is longer than can be counted, but not so long as the list of his contributions to the federal bench.

As one of Judge Becker’s law clerks when he served on the Eastern District Court, I had a grandstand seat in the early days. It was the bicentennial summer and the first full year at the present U.S. Courthouse overlooking Independence Mall in Philadelphia. From Independence Hall to the humble gravesite of Ben Franklin, the horizon was filled with the modest treasures of America’s birth. Just going to lunch was like a daily study in history.

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