By Jason A. Smith
A fixture within the judicial system in Henry County said he was surprised by news of an honor he will receive in the coming weeks.
Local attorney Alex Crumbley is scheduled to receive the John Holliman Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia May 7. He is also scheduled to give the keynote address during the journalism school's graduation ceremony the following day.
Crumbley, 67, learned about the award last month after receiving an e-mail from E. Culpepper "Cully" Clark, dean of the journalism school. Crumbley said he never expected to be recognized in such a way.
"Needless to say, I was extremely surprised," he said. "I didn't know anybody remembered I had been to journalism school."
Crumbley, a native of Henry County, began attending journalism classes at UGA in 1960. According to him, he was able to use the experience to further his pursuits in the field of law.
"In those days, they would let you go to law school after three years, if you qualified," said Crumbley. "So I stayed in the journalism school for three years, and then went to the law school. I ended up with a degree in both journalism and law."
After graduating from law school, Crumbley returned to Henry County, where he practiced law until he entered the Air Force National Guard during the Vietnam War. After his military service was over, he and his wife, Claire, moved to Atlanta, where they lived for 10 years before returning to Henry County.
Crumbley then resumed his efforts in the law field, where he acknowledged he made a number of contributions in the community.
"Pretty soon after I came here, the first thing I did was to set up the public defender's office for the old Flint Circuit, which had Henry, Butts, Lamar and Monroe counties," he said. "I was defending indigents. Then I was appointed judge of the Superior Courts of the four counties, and served there for five years."
Soon afterward, Crumbley returned to private practice, working alongside his brother, Wade Crumbley, who is currently a Henry County Superior Court judge. The pair operated the Crumbley Law Firm in McDonough for 25 years, until Wade Crumbley was appointed to the bench in 2005.
Alex Crumbley was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1986, having run as a Democrat. He said an unsuccessful re-election bid in 1988, as well as a loss in 1994's Georgia Supreme Court race, helped to convince him not to continue with a career in politics.
"Democrats had become almost an extinct species around here at that time," he said. "I decided that I couldn't be a successful lawyer and do all of that at the same time, so I didn't pursue that further. So, I've run four political races, and I've won two and lost two. It's more fun to win."
Alex Crumbley continues to maintain the law firm, and said he believes the law profession in Henry has changed "significantly" for the better since his career began. Although he doesn't take credit for positive developments in the field locally, he said he is proud of the work he has accomplished in Henry.
"I was able to start some of it, and other people have picked up on it," Alex Crumbley said. "I think we have a very efficient system in Henry County. We have good, qualified judges, and the district attorney's office is respected. I think the court system in Henry County is one of the best in the state."
The UGA journalism school released a newsletter April 9 announcing Crumbley's award, as well as those of honorees Josh Jackson and Jennifer Rainey Marquez. Clark, the journalism school dean, commended all three for the work they have done in their respective careers.
"These exceptional individuals demonstrate how Grady alumni carry the banner of achievement in journalism and mass communication forward into their professions," said Clark. "They and the alumni they represent are extremely valuable resources to the college."
The newsletter called Crumbley a "distinguished" figure in state politics, a "gifted writer," and "a fearless advocate for what he believes is right."
Alex and Claire Crumbley have one son, Alexander, who works as a clinical psychologist in New York.