The community said farewell to a Fayette County and Pickaway County law enforcement legend Friday as the life of William Crooks was remembered during his funeral at Heritage Memorial Church of Christ in Christian Union. The burial was in Good Hope Cemetery.
A beautiful funeral procession passed by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office and under the ladder arches of the Washington C.H. and Jefferson Township fire departments. The procession was led by Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth and Pickaway County Sheriff Robert B. Radcliff and was accompanied by law enforcement officers from surrounding counties.
Earlier this week, law enforcement officers reflected on the exceptional life and career of Crooks, who served as Fayette County Sheriff from 1991 to 1997. Crooks passed away last Saturday at the age of 76 at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“He was top-notch police officer and deputy sheriff,” said current Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, who is now the last living Fayette County sheriff following Crooks’s passing. “His work always stood up to the scrutiny of the courts and that’s the level we strive to meet. And he always did meet that level. He was also a remarkable investigator. He and Larry Walker (who passed away in 2012) — when Bill was a detective for the sheriff’s office and Walker was a detective for the police department — they worked as a team and solved many, many crimes. They did great work together. But Bill was above reproach. He set the standard for many of us to follow. If you wanted to be an investigator, you molded yourself after Bill Crooks.”
Crooks began his law enforcement career in 1962, when he became a civilian radio dispatcher and jailer with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. He was soon promoted to the patrol division and began working as a road deputy. He was named sergeant by Sheriff Donald L. Thompson and first lieutenant by Sheriff Robert W. McArthur. Upon the retirement of Sheriff McArthur, Lt. Crooks was appointed to fill the unexpired term. He was elected sheriff in 1992 and served until 1997.
Former Pickaway County Sheriff, Dwight Radcliff, also spoke glowingly of Crooks and his career.
“I first met Bill in 1962 and he was just getting started as a dispatcher,” said Radcliff. “Bill was a whale of a good detective. He was the kind of guy who was on the job all the time. You never had to worry about finding Bill Crooks, he would be there. I don’t care if it was early in the morning or late at night.”
After Stanforth won the election for Fayette County Sheriff in 1996, Radcliff approached Crooks to see if he wanted to join the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office.
I told him, ‘Why don’t you come over and I think I can find a place for you,” Radcliff said. “He came to work for me, worked the patrol for awhile and a very short time later we moved him into my detective bureau. He had all of that knowledge and expertise….he was a graduate of the FBI Academy. Then later on, I promoted him to sergeant. He was a great guy and I enjoyed working with him. He just loved his job. You don’t find those kind of people today. I’ve always been very proud to know the Crooks family. I certainly hated to see him pass the way he did. I feel for Judy and their entire family.”
Current Pickaway County Sheriff Robert B. Radcliff said as he was growing up, he was heavily influenced by legendary law enforcement men like Bill Crooks.
“He went to work at the sheriff’s office I believe at the same time my father took office when I was 2-years-old,” Robert Radcliff said. “So I grew up with that group of people…Don Thompson (former Fayette County Sheriff), Bob McArthur (former Fayette County Sheriff) and Bill Crooks. Bill was always a mentor to me….somebody I could look to give me guidance and some knowledge from his experiences. To me, he was a legend. I put him and my father in that category because of their dedication to the job. Bill was the first guy at work and you almost had to push him out the door to get him to go home at night. If there was something important going on, he wanted to be there, he wanted to be involved. It’s one thing for an officer to have the kind of amazing, distinguished career in Fayette County, but then he turned around and had almost as impressive a career in Pickaway County. It’s just remarkable.”
For current chief deputy of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Andy Bivens, Crooks was instrumental in the beginning of his law enforcement career.
“I graduated high school in May of ‘89 and my first unofficial interview was at the Fayette County Fair in 1989 with Bill Crooks,” said Bivens. “If I had to say anything about Bill, it’s that he was the lawman of lawmen. He was one of the few that just had that memory….you could call Bill and he was among that generation of law enforcement officers who knew anything and everything that was going on at any given time. Bill Crooks and Larry Walker were referred to at any given time as the ‘dynamic duo.’ I would put them up against any investigators in the state. They were that good.”
According to longtime deputy with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Bob Russell, Crooks was the first-appointed sergeant in Fayette County and the first-appointed lieutenant.
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica