The portrait of U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr., unveiled at a ceremony Friday afternoon, has a picture of the Thomas Hill Standpipe tucked into the upper right hand corner.
The Bangor landmark appears to peeking over the judge’s shoulder at the papers he is holding in his lap. That is because the Queen City has been such a prominent part of Woodcock’s life.
“I am a child of Bangor,” the judge said of his decision to include the standpipe in his portrait. “It is a wonderful place to grow up and raise a family. I am grateful and lucky to have grown up here.”
Woodcock, the eldest child of the late Dr. John A. Woodcock and his wife, Joan Woodcock Nestler, now 96, is the first U.S. district judge born in Bangor. He practiced law in the city for more than 27 years before going on the bench in June 2003. He was nominated by President George W. Bush on the joint recommendation of U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.
Woodcock, 68, took active senior status in 2017 and moved to Portland to be near his grandchildren. A graduate of Bowdoin College, he continues to work full time and is often in Bangor to preside over cases.
It is a tradition in the judiciary that once judges move to senior status, their law clerks raise funds to pay an artist to paint a portrait of the judge. Woodcock’s will be displayed alongside paintings of U.S. District Judges George Mitchell, Gene Carter, George Singal, Conrad Cyr and Morton Brody on the walls of the large courtroom on the third floor of the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building.
It was presented to the court in a two-hour ceremony attended by federal and state judges, Woodcock’s current and former clerks, courthouse staff, prosecutors, defense attorneys, litigators and Gov. Janet Mills, who attended the University of Maine Law School with Woodcock. Both graduated in 1976. Former Gov. John Baldacci, who grew up in Bangor, also attended.
U.S. Magistrate John Nivison, who left the state judiciary to serve on the federal bench in early 2014, said he knew the minute he walked into Woodcock’s office that they would have a good relationship despite their Colby-Bowdoin rivalry.
“There hanging on his wall was something very familiar to me, because I had just hung the same thing on my wall,” he said. “It was the front page of the Boston Globe for Oct. 28, 2004. For those of you who might not understand the significance of that date, it was the day after t he Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. I saw that and thought, ‘We’re going to be okay.’”
Nivison praised Woodcock for his “thoughtful analysis and innate sense of fairness.”
Singal, who introduced Woodcock at the portrait unveiling, said that as a boy growing up on Cedar Street in Bangor, Woodcock would “come running out of the house hollering, ‘Does anyone want to play ball?’ Kids were come running out of their houses to join him. Later, as a lawyer, he found out that no one wanted to play ball.”
Woodcock expressed gratitude to his wife Beverly, who he met at Bowdoin when she was one of just 13 women on the nearly all-male campus, and three sons, Jack, Patrick and Christopher, who attended with their four young children. Together, they unveiled the portrait by Ohio-based artist Kyle R. Keith. He also painted portraits of Singal and U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby.