Justice News

Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary G. Grindler at a Retirement Ceremony Honoring Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division John C. Keeney
Washington, DC
United States
Friday, September 24, 2010

Thank you, Lanny. And I want to add my thanks to all of you for joining us today to honor and thank Mr. Keeney, the longest-serving federal prosecutor and the most dedicated public servant that any of us will ever have the privilege to work with.

Many of you have known Mr. Keeney for many years and have benefited, like me, from his wise counsel and impeccable judgment. That is, in part, because even after 59 years with the department, his door is still always open. He always has been willing to listen to the youngest lawyers and some of the older ones, too.

I can attest to this because I rejoined the department in the Criminal Division in March of last year as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General. Many, many times I would walk down the hall to Mr. Keeney’s office to seek his advice and counsel. In his 59th year with the department, he always welcomed me to his office, would patiently hear my concerns and then offer his advice and suggestions on how to solve the problem I was facing. Lanny would also bring Mr. Keeney into meetings where the most difficult and challenging issues were being discussed. Mr. Keeney would always listen carefully to what everyone said, never interrupting; never raising his voice; and then cut through the issues and provide his succinct views on the path forward.

Mr. Keeney’s advice is always sound, and to the point because it is built upon decades of experience, in fact, nearly six decades of service, under 12 Presidents and 23 Attorneys General. He has received almost every conceivable honor for exceptional government legal work that exists, including the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, the District of Columbia Bar’s Beatrice Rosenberg Award for Outstanding Government Service, and the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Service. And he even has a building named after him –something we should all aspire to.

Mr. Keeney’s accomplishments are numerous and the accolades are many – too many, really, to count – but if you know him, you also know he never did his work for the recognition; he did it because he felt it had to be done and it was the right thing to do. Mr. Keeney has said, “t he great thing about being a Justice Department lawyer is that you get to wear the white hat.” That, in itself, has been the greatest reward for Mr. Keeney.

But we are all here today to give him what he truly deserves – a resounding, collective thank you for serving the citizens of this nation tirelessly since 1951. A thank you for a lifetime of quiet leadership and for a spirit of integrity that has inspired every one of us. And for the pride that we all feel that someone as remarkable as Jack Keeney would choose to make the Justice Department his home for nearly 60 years.

The many people here honoring you today, Mr. Keeney, are a testament to your achievements, your character, and your impact on this department, our justice system, and the Nation. Your influence is felt in every corner of our government. In all three branches from the legislative to the judicial to the executive there are countless public servants who you have mentored and befriended, and whose lives you have made better, just as you have made our nation – so much better.

As our nation faces unprecedented challenges – from rebuilding a collapsed financial system to addressing the worst environmental disaster in our history – America needs, and the public seeks the service of, career public prosecutors to right wrongs and to deliver justice. You, Mr. Keeney, embody the ideal career public prosecutor. You represent everything the public should expect from those who walk these halls. And you always will.

As the son of a railroad man growing up in rural Pennsylvania in the 1930s, I don’t think you ever imagined that you would become the legend, the institution that you have become. But that is what you are – a legend and an inspiration to us all. Your sharp legal mind, thoughtful approach, exacting advice, and humility are traits that we can all aspire to -- although it is unlikely that any us will attain the status as the department’s walking encyclopedia or “oracle” as you have been come to be known, it is an extraordinarily high standard to which we should all strive.

And although your record may speak for itself, Congress decided to memorialize it – in fact, I would like to present to you a plaque that contains Senator Leahy’s entry in the Congressional Record to mark the occasion of your retirement. It reads, in part:

“The Department of Justice is defined by the career professionals who, day in and day out, exemplify dedication, integrity, and a commitment to justice. Jack Keeney has personified these qualities for the past 6 decades.

“The Department and the country are better for his exceptional service. I thank him for his service and wish him well in his well-deserved retirement. I hope that generations of lawyers at the Justice Department will be inspired by his example and seek to follow in his footsteps. “

Mr. Kenney, we are inspired as you can see from the sea of people here honoring you today. And we will be carrying forward the ‘Jack Keeney standard,’ the Jack Keeney story, and your legacy of service for generations to come.

Thank you, Mr. Keeney, for everything you have done to lead and guide the Justice Department and our Nation. You will be missed.

Updated September 17, 2014