A Eulogy to Judge Lemmon
by Wilson Craven

Remarks by Mr. Wilson Craven
Monday, June 9, 1958

May it please the Court, Members of the Bench and Bar, Ladies and Gentlemen: I have been asked to speak about Dal M. Lemmon. I am not going to speak about his qualities as a judge; his brother judges know more about his qualities as a jurist than I do. I am going to speak very briefly about his great gift for friendship.

I knew Judge Lemmon not only as a lawyer and as a judge, but as a luncheon companion. It was at lunch and in conversations after lunch that I best knew him. There is something about great success and high position that dehumanizes many men. Their success and their great responsibilities make them serious and somber. They become very hard to know; as inaccessible as high mountains. The high road is the lonely road.

But nothing like this happened to Judge Lemmon. He was as much fun to be with at the end of his career as he was at the beginning. As a matter of fact, he was more fun to be with, because as he went alone he mellowed and acquired more wisdom, more kindness and more humor.

The qualities of friendship cannot be easily defined. They can only be experienced. And I had these experiences with Judge Lemmon.

On one occasion after lunch and when we were seated in one of the big chairs at the University Club and when the conversation had dragged a bit, he said, "I wish I had a carpet.: And I thought perhaps he was thinking of a carpet for his office.

And I said, "What kind of carpet?"

He said, "I wish I had a magic carpet."

And I asked him what in the world he would do with a magic carpet, and he stated that if he had a magic carpet he could use it to ride upon and go and see his friends, and he could send it to them and they could come riding upon it and see him.

There was something about the thought of this magic carpet hovering over the houses of his friends or fluttering gently about a foot over the grass in their back yards inviting them to come aboard and see the Judge that appealed to him.

On another occasion an older lawyer in Sacramento had done me a favor, and I was worried because I could not see how I was ever going to return that act of kindness to him, and I discussed this matter with Judge Lemmon, and he took me very severely to task. He said, "The important thing is not that you return this act of friendship but that you pass it on. The older lawyer does not expect you to do anything for him in return. What you must do is pass this act of friendship on, because if you do an act of friendship for a person he will do a similar act for someone else, and your act of kindness will go on and on like a chain. If," said the Judge, "you do an act of kindness for a man, years later it will come back to your children or your grandchildren. You can even do an act of kindness," said the Judge, "aid it will go on from person to person all the way around the world and come back to you. Of course, by the time it comes back," said he, "it will be so well traveled that you may not recognize it, but it will be your original act of kindness just the same."

Now these remarks were made in a jesting manner; they were not profound; they were not intended to be profound; but they show you his thinking, they show you how he felt about his friends and how he felt about friendship.

Although Judge Lemmon had a great gift for friendship, it would do him a great disservice to say that he was everybody's friend. He was most emphatically not everybody's friend. His friendship was nothing to be tossed about. He was not a friend or friendly toward people who had shabby ideals or shabby morals. He was a tolerant man, but he knew when to be intolerant and of what. He was intolerant of second-rate work, and he was intolerant of people who were not honorable. He was highly intolerant of bad manners. He had developed a critical sense by which he knew a good human job anywhere. He held in no esteem things or ideas which were cheap or trashy.

He not only knew the difference between good work and bad work, but he knew the difference between that which is fine and that which is good. He knew the difference between that which is completely sound and that which is almost completely sound.

It was this fine sense of discrimination that made Judge Lemmon a great judge and a first-rate man.

We live in an age of exhibitionism. Judge Lemmon was a complete anti-exhibitionist. He did not think that a girl in Hollywood was an actress merely because she was pretty. He did not think that a man was a lawyer merely because he had a pleasing personality. To judge Lemmon this was a professional world, and competence in any profession or trade was acquired only by application and hard work.

In a lawyer the things that he values the most and rated the highest were industry and intetrity.

Judge Lemmon was a fine man and a fine judge. He was a splendid and first-rate person.

The qualities of the second-rate in books, music and in persons can be easily defined. But the great books, the best music and the finest men have a quality of their own which escapes definition. It is the thing about them which you cannot define which makes them great. A great book improves your mind; a great piece of music enriches and uplifts your spirit, and a fine man widens and deepens the lives of his friends. And so it was with Judge Lemmon.

All of us will know more of justice and kindness because we knew him. He left us much more than memory. He left us a quality which was his very own and which will rest like a hand on our shoulder as long as we live.

It is with a great sense of honor that I as one of his friends and as a member of the Sacramento Bar Association join with you in paying this tribute to his memory.

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2003 United States District Court for the Eastern District of California Historical Society.