Robert “Bob” Crouch, a former Martinsville area resident and U.S. attorney for Western Virginia, is being remembered as dedicated to service and the legal process.
Crouch, who most recently lived in Mechanicsville, was a U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia in the early 1990s and then held roles in state government.
He died Wednesday at the age of 73 from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, said his daughter, Emily Crouch Vitan.
Bob Crouch grew up living in different places, including France and Hawaii, because “his father was career Army. He lived literally all over,” said his widow, Clara Crouch.
For the rest of his life he maintained his “many lasting friendships from that [Southside] area” from his younger days, she said.
Apart from the years he served as U.S. attorney, a nonpolitical role, he was a heavy hitter for the Democratic Party — and with a young start.
Crouch was in sixth grade in Tacoma, Washington, when he promoted John F. Kennedy in his school’s mock presidential elections. His side won by a landslide.
As a junior at Drewry Mason High School, he worked on the Johnson-Humphrey campaign and organized a local young Democratic support group for the ticket.
Crouch studied at Patrick Henry Community College in 1967.
While a student at the University of Maryland, from which he was graduated in 1971, he worked part-time on Capitol Hill and for the Democratic National Committee.
In 1972, Crouch became an aide to then-Sen. Bill Sprong, who was running for reelection. “That was a great education regarding Virginia,” Crouch told the Bulletin in 1993, because in that role he toured every Virginia county but one.
It also was when he met his wife, Clara, who was working for Sen. Howard Baker.
Right before the couple got engaged, he moved back to the Martinsville area, she said.
After college he worked for Fieldcrest Mills in Eden, North Carolina, and PHCC before winning the elected post of clerk of Henry County Circuit Court in 1975. He instituted innovations such as a call-in hotline for jurors and in-house computer indexing.
By 1976, Crouch was helping organize fundraisers for Democratic candidates. He would become the state party vice chairman for operations.
He earned his master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1982.
A year after he was elected to his second eight-year term as clerk of court, he left the post for law school at the University of Virginia. After getting his law degree in 1988, he worked for a firm in Charlottesville before joining Young, Haskins, Manns & Gregory in Martinsville.
“He was always extremely polite and patient, and the clients really felt that he had a genuine interest in whatever their legal problem was that they came to see him about,” said Jim Haskins.
Crouch had high credibility “with not only his clients and fellow attorneys but also with the judges, also with the courts,” Haskins said. “The way he practiced was always with the highest order” of professionalism and integrity.
He was the Henry County chair of Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaigns, and one of the first Virginia Democratic activists to join Bill Clinton’s campaign. He was Clinton’s campaign coordinator for the Fifth Congressional District, and went onto become a Clinton delegate and whip at the Democratic National Convention.
At the age of 45, in 1993, he was recommended by then-Sen. Chuck Robb to serve as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, which was based in Roanoke. Later that year, Clinton appointed him to that position, where he directed 17 assistant U.S. attorneys.
While U.S. Attorneys traditionally leave partisan politics when they serve their terms, their appointments usually are political rewards for their party.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office represents the federal government in criminal and civil matters and prosecutes violations of federal law.
In 2000, Crouch was replaced as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia by the Bush administration. In 2001, he was appointed deputy secretary of public safety by then-Gov. Mark Warner.
He also was an assistant to the governor for commonwealth preparedness under then-Gov. Tim Kaine. Afterward, he remained near Richmond as a government consultant.