Born: Tuesday, April 15th, 1851
Died: Friday, October 22nd, 1915
Birthplace: Delaware, Ohio
Education: Ohio Wesleyan, A.B. (1871); M.A. (1887)
Career: City Attorney (1876-1881)
State Senate (1898-1903)
Served: Thursday, January 19th, 1905 to Friday, October 22nd, 1915
Chief Justice: Monday, January 13th, 1913 to Monday, January 11th, 1915
Political Party: Republican
Appointing Governor: Mead (Republican)Herman Crow’s father, Thomas Denton Crow, was a principal of the preparatory department and instructor in Latin and Greek at Ohio Wesleyan University; his mother was Henrietta (Downs) Crow of Delaware, Ohio. While still a youngster, Crow’s family moved to Urbana, Ohio, where Thomas began a legal career. After graduating from Urbana High School, Herman entered Ohio Wesleyan, graduating in 1871 in the same class with future Vice President Charles W. Franklin and future Washington Governor Samuel G. Cosgrove. Returning to Urbana, Crow began studying law, being admitted to the Ohio bar in 1873. On the advice of his doctor, Crow spent a year in the drier climate of Texas, but returned to Urbana to practice law, enter politics, and raise a family. He served five years as city attorney, became active in Republican politics, and did graduate work at Ohio Wesleyan. In 1886 Crow moved to Winfield, Kansas, to continue law practice. He played a prominent role in Republican politics and served on the state executive committee of the Republican Clubs of Kansas. In 1890 he went to Spokane to represent a wealthy client, and remained there to join in partnership with Judge W. E. Richardson and, later, James A. Williams.
Crow gained appointment to the state senate in 1898 to finish an unexpired term, then was elected to the position, serving until 1903. Progressive in his politics, he supported railroad reform legislation, local option laws, the factory act which regulated working conditions-and the eight-hour work day bill. He chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during his last legislative session. Crow served as a Washington State College regent (1901-1905), and was a presidential elector in 1904.
The legislature authorized Republican Governor Albert E. Mead to expand membership of the supreme court to seven in 1905. Geography and politics played important roles in his selections. He appointed fellow Republicans Milo Root of Seattle and Herman Crow of Spokane, thereby achieving geographical balance. Crow’s appointment was also politically strategic, since he had supported progressive legislation favored by the governor and, although a lifelong Republican, had the support of many eastern Washington Democrats. Most county bar associations also recommended his appointment. He won impressive electoral support in 1906, 1908, and 1914.
His progressive approach to the law, characteristic of his years in the legislature, typified his views while on the bench. For example, in Scott v. Stark he expressed approval of statutes providing assistance for widows and dependent children: “Such statutes are passed to prevent dependency. They are humane laws and voice a sound public policy.” In October 1915, while still on the court, Judge Crow’s health deteriorated rapidly and on the twenty-second he died, a cancer victim.
Judge Crow married Martha Florence Medenhall of Delaware, Ohio, in October, 1877. They were the parents of one son, Denton M. Crow, who became a lawyer, practicing in California and Spokane. In 1915 Chief Justice George E. Morris delivered a memorial to the state bar association in which he recalled the basic qualities of Herman Crow:
He was a man of deep learning, bright intellect and, in recognition of this fact, three different institutions have conferred upon him the honorable degree of LL.D. To his friends, I take it, his most noticeable characteristic was his manliness and his amiability. He was a true gentleman, and never forgot it. His thought, speech and act was always kindly. He never spoke evil of anyone; his life was devoid of malice, more so I think than that of any man with whom I have ever come in contact.
W. C. Wolfe, Sketches of Washingtonians (1906), p. 145; C. S. Reinhart, History of the Supreme Court of the Territory and State of Washington (n.d.), p. 78; and Washington State Bar Association Proceedings (1915-1916), pp. 179-181.
The preceding biography is from Charles Sheldon's The Washington High Bench: A Biographical History of the State Supreme Court, 1889-1991, © 1992 by the Board of Regents of Washington State University. Reprinted here with permission and licensed to the public under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License by The Temple of Justice Project.