Former colleagues reflect on life of Joe Crumley

Becky Campbell • Apr 10, 2012 at 10:59 PM

Joe Cecil Crumley Jr., former district attorney general and defense attorney, died late Monday at his home following ongoing declining health.

Attorneys across the county said Crumley, 59, impacted the legal profession here and will be missed.

Childhood friend Sharon Green, Johnson City’s juvenile court judge, said Crumley was humble and honest.

“When he was in private practice he was a strong and effective advocate for his client,” Green said. “When he became a prosecutor, he worked so hard for public safety of the community. That was his goal.”

In recent years, Crumley had returned to private practice after serving in the 3rd Judicial District as a prosecutor following his political defeat for a second term as district attorney general for the 1st District.

Prior to his election to office, Crumley was an assistant district attorney general for a number of years and worked for then District Attorney General David Crockett until leaving to run against his boss.

John Kiener, a retired Sessions Court judge, said the legal community “has suffered from this loss.”

“I performed a wedding ceremony for he and his wife. He was a friend, and I thought he did his job well.”

Green said she feels attorneys and judges in the area respected Crumley.

“I think many attorneys and judges respected him for his intelligence. Joe was always honest and he always had a very humble nature. I’ve been thinking back and I can’t think of a single time he was anything other than a gentleman,” she said.

Even in elementary school at Fairmont, Crumley was humble, she said. Green and Crumley went all through school together and graduated from Science Hill High School in the same class.

“He was a childhood friend and our friendship continued,” Green said.

Attorney Don Spurrell, who rented office space in Johnson City to Crumley a few years ago, also said the former prosecutor was a friend.

“Joe was a complicated person like all of us. He had the mentality of an advocate for” justice, he said. “Whether he was on the defense side or on the prosecution side, he brought passion to the game. He was always honest with me in his dealings and a man I could rely on and I think he was committed to justice.”

“He was always a man committed to serving the ends of justice,” said District Attorney General Tony Clark, who defeated Crumley in 2006. He said he was saddened to hear about Crumley’s death.

Crumley was an assistant district attorney general when Clark started his career as a prosecutor and they worked together several years.

“I worked with him for about three years and for him for seven years,” Clark said. “Joe and I worked on several cases together ... the first jury trial I took part in was with Joe.”

Clark said he didn’t know what led Crumley to run for office, but “he came to me and said he was going to quit and run for DA.

“I don’t have a thing negative to say about Joe. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Clark said he last saw and spoke to Crumley about three months ago in the courthouse.

“We sat on one of the benches and talked,” Clark said. “I know he was passionate about prosecuting cases.”

Clark said Crumley started the Christmas tradition of a Victims’ Tree to remember all crime victims in the 1st Judicial District and “that’s something we kept up with.”

Earlier this month, authorities dismissed reckless endangerment, evading arrest, failure to yield to blue lights and sirens and reckless driving charges against Crumley. The charges resulted from a Sept. 21 incident in Jonesborough during which he was accused of crossing the center line while driving and refusing to pull over when Jonesborough Public Safety officers ordered him to do so.

Joe Baugh, retired attorney general for the 21st Judicial District, reported April 1 that he had received the signed order from Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood dismissing charges against Crumley.

“I can confirm the charges are dismissed,” Baugh said at the time. “It seemed the decent thing to do in light of his medical condition.”

Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home is handling Crumley’s arrangements, but they were incomplete late Tuesday.

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