Peers fondly remember St. John Parish’s first DA

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 5, 2012



LAPLACE – Former St. John the Baptist Parish District Attorney John Crum Jr., who served as the parish’s chief prosecutor for 24 years before retiring in 2009, died Wednesday of cancer. He was 66.

Crum grew up in Thibodaux and was elected as the first district attorney for the 40th Judicial District, which was created in 1983. Before that, St. John Parish was part of the 29th Judicial District, which included St. Charles Parish. Crum served as first assistant under District Attorney Harry Morel Jr.

Crum defeated LaPlace attorney Daniel Becnel Jr. in the first St. John District Attorney election in 1983 and served until he retired in 2009. Crum’s replacement, Tom Daley, who was elected to succeed Crum, said Wednesday was a sad day for the office.

“He and I started as jogging buddies,” Daley said. “We ran races and triathlons together. When he took office in 1984, he recruited me to work with him, and we worked on some serious cases together.”

Daley said Crum ran the office in a “casual and comfortable” manner and said he often showed up to campaigns wearing a Hawaiian shirt.

“He was casual before casual was cool,” Daley said. “He was always a pleasant and helpful kind of guy.”

St. John Sheriff Wayne Jones said he was part of Crum’s office beginning in 1985 and said the former district attorney played a pivotal role in his election to sheriff.

“He helped me climb the ranks of the district attorney’s office and encouraged me to move over to the sheriff’s office,” Jones said. “He was always the easiest person to approach when it came to elected officials. He was always a good conversationalist.”

Jones recalled Crum’s management style as “easy going.”

He said that Crum had a way of making people who came into his office feel at ease with whatever the situation was.

“I would watch him talk to victims while I sat in as an investigator,” Jones said. “He always put people in a relaxed mood. He was never in a rush to shoo anyone out of his office. He was a good friend and a good boss.”

Both Jones and Daley said they were shocked by the news of Crum’s passing and that his death seemed sudden.

Crum graduated from Thibodaux High School and received a bachelor’s degree in zoology from LSU in 1968. He had planned to attend dental school at Loyola, but when LSU took over operation of the school, admission was reduced. He decided to apply to law school at LSU instead.

Crum completed law school in 1972 and moved to LaPlace to open a law office. He also worked for the Louisiana Legislative Council from 1973 to 1976.

Crum is survived by his wife, Patricia, and three children: Jay, Merideth and Rachel. His full obituary, including information on funeral arrangements can be found on page 2.