District attorney to teach next fall

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

The 17th Judicial District's loss -- with the prosecutor's resignation next July -- is the Fayetteville school system's gain as the top law enforcement officer in Marshall, Lincoln, Bedford and Moore counties will be teaching American history and government next fall.

Dr. Janine Wilson, director of Fayetteville's growing system, announced to the Board of Education on Monday night that she's hired Chuck Crawford, who's also served as Lincoln County's sessions and juvenile court judge. Crawford comes from a family of teachers. He married a teacher and he wants to be more of a father to his three children, ages four, 10 and 12.

In his resignation letter to Gov. Bill Haslam last week, Crawford said he was "physically and emotionally drained" by the demands of the job and that the people deserve someone who will give 100 percent to the job.

During a weekend interview -- publication of this story was delayed until after the school board meeting -- Crawford discussed his reasons. Monday night, he said, "I've given the governor until July to come up with someone" to serve two years in an appointed position.

The next DA here must live in the district. When Crawford's predecessor took medical leave, he remained the DA, but Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard, then of Nashville, now of Murfreesboro, served as the office's administrator, making day-to-day decisions.

"It would be my desire for him [Haslam] to select someone who would keep the staff together," Crawford said. "It's an outstanding group of lawyers."

Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler of Shelbyville worked with Crawford in the DA's office under Mike McCown. Crawford and Crigler started as assistant prosecutors in 1988, and they've been good friends ever since.

"I can understand the pressures of the job," Crigler said. "If it's the best for him, I'd want that."

Those "pressures of the job" include a case that might be remembered as the Fayetteville family murder.

"It was probably the most visible of the bad ones," Crawford said of a case that attracted media attention from Nashville and Huntsville.

"There was the case where my friend's son killed his girl friend over here," Crawford said.

While he was a judge, he granted a woman custody of her grandson.

"Then somebody killed the grandmother and the grandson and we convicted them both on two counts of murder for each" victim, he said. One got two life sentences without the possibility of parole and the other got two sentences, but the specifics are lost without records to jog the memory of inhumanity.

"I sort of grieved with every murder case we had," said Crawford, identifying each case as that of the victim, not the perpetrator.

Police and others in each of the four counties may witness the results of such crimes, but the DA must review the evidence from all those counties.

"The Ross case was bad," Crawford said of the Valentine's Day murder at Shelbyville where a car salesman's wife conspired with two others to get money from his life insurance policy. The couple lived in Lewisburg and Cornersville before moving to the Walking Horse Parkway.

He refrained from mentioning current investigations here, but noted the death of a Chinese man who was helping his son build a restaurant here. The father had a restaurant in Fayetteville.

"Keith Buchanan who worked for the city was killed on the streets of Fayetteville," Crawford said, recalling another murder case in what's otherwise thought of as a pleasant small town.

"Then there's the boy who bashed his daddy's brains out with a rock," he said.

"A lot of times the people in Fayetteville were people I knew, but you get to know all the victims' families."

So, the man with a law degree and a college degree in history and political science decided he'd like to change his career.

"I knew the position had to be filled," Crawford said, explaining the city school system is growing. "With that thought, I gave her a call and ultimately, she called me."

Wilson and Crawford have known each other for a long time.

"We just discussed the position and she said it would be posted," he said. They spoke again last month.

"I was announced as a new hire," Crawford said about an hour after the Monday night School Board meeting.

He does not have a teaching certificate, but waivers are granted to people with experience in the subject they're hired to teach.

"I am going to have to take some courses to be fully certified, but I can get a temporary license," Crawford said.

He anticipates his new career will be like returning to a profession he's known about all his life.

"My parents met while teaching school at Flintville High School in the late 1950s. It was '58 or '59. Flintville doesn't have a high school anymore."

Frank Crawford, was teaching science. He first saw Patsy near the principal's office where the prosecutor's father had to deliver something.

'"Who's she?'" Crawford said, quoting his father. '"She's an applicant for the opening,'" he said the principal replied.

"You better hire her," the principal was told.

She got the job and it wasn't too long before Frank and Patsy were married.

Frank later taught missile repair, so that when an American manufacturer "sold missiles to our allies they'd send someone here to learn how to maintain them."

Patsy taught every grade but 8th grade. Crawford's grandmother taught at Kelso and Smithland. His grandmother's brother, John Morgan, taught at the Webb School. Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro is where the prosecutor's aunt taught class.

Crawford's subjects, American history and American government, will be about the structure of the government, the function of the branches, the difference between the state and national government responsibilities, the roles filed by the judiciary, the administration and Congress.

"My American government teacher was my favorite teacher and she let everybody express their philosophies. I hope we can manage to do that in my class without belittling anybody's beliefs."

American history lessons would start with the Indians and include the colonies, the rise of the sprit of independence, formation of the government, the rise of the slave economy, the civil war, the aftermath, the world wars, and on into Watergate, and the Reagan era.

Crawford turns 51 this summer and says 23 years in the legal system is a long time.

Since he became the DA, the number of books he read was cut to less than half because he just doesn't have the time.

He's been at the office when the playoffs are going on.

"I want to watch the Vols and raise my children."

He and Terri have two sons and a daughter. Trey is in the sixth grade at age 12. Barclay is four. Their daughter, Holland, is 10. She's in the fifth grade.

The Crawfords have an orchard that needs attention.

"The governor appoints an interim district attorney in the case of a vacancy and that district attorney would serve until the next biennial election," Dave Smith, spokesman for the governor's office, said. "Typically, those interested in the vacancy tend to make that known through various channels, and the governor would make an appointment at an appropriate time after reviewing the candidates' experience, skill, character and competency."