Chief Justice Spike Maynard, right, presented the 2008 Liberty Bell Award to Judge Robert Staker earlier this year. (Courtesy photo)

CHARLESTON -– The state Supreme Court is mourning the death of retired U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Staker.

The judge, who was 83 when he died Nov. 30 in a Huntington nursing care facility, was a former Mingo Circuit Judge.

"Bob Staker has been my good friend for more than 50 years, and I will miss him deeply," Chief Justice and Mingo County native Spike Maynard said. "He was a judge's judge, and one of the finest human beings I ever knew. The Bench and the Bar have lost a giant."

Justice Thomas McHugh agreed.

"I was a circuit judge at the same time as Judge Staker," McHugh said. "He was greatly admired by his fellow judges. He served our state and our country in an exemplary manner. I have very fond memories of him."

Justice Robin Jean Davis recalled Staker's service.

"As a judge, his service at every level was exemplary," she said. "Important for us who are younger on the bench, he was an extraordinary mentor. He will surely be missed."

Justice Brent Benjamin agreed.

"Judge Staker was a gentleman, a fine judge, and a legal scholar," he said. "He possessed a kind and gentle manner on the bench, but was never afraid to make tough decisions when necessary. He will be missed."

Maynard commemorated the 50th anniversary of Law Day on May 1 by presenting the 2008 Liberty Bell Award to Staker during the West Virginia Bar Association's Past Presidents' Dinner.

The Liberty Bell Award is commissioned each year by the American Bar Association. It honors a person who promotes better understanding of the rule of law, encourages a greater respect for law and the courts, stimulates a sense of civic responsibility, and contributes to good government in the community.

Staker was born in Kermit on the Mingo-Wayne county line, on Feb. 14, 1925. He served in the U.S. Navy as a radioman between 1943 and 1946. He attended Marshall University and West Virginia University and earned his law degree from the West Virginia University College of Law in 1952.

Staker had his own law practice for more than a decade. He then served Mingo County first as a prosecutor and then on the circuit bench from Jan. 1, 1969, to Sept. 22, 1979, when he was appointed by then-President Jimmy Carter to the federal bench in the Southern District of West Virginia. He served as a Senior United States District Judge from 1995 until his retirement in 2005.

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