Crooker, John Henry (1884–1975)

By: Newton Gresham and James A. Tinsley

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: December 7, 2016

John Henry Crooker, attorney, was born on July 15, 1884, in Mobile, Alabama, the son of Norman W. and Margaret (Kelton) Crooker. His father died while Crooker was quite young, and his mother moved the family to the north side of Houston. Crooker left school after the seventh grade and held a number of jobs before turning to local politics and law. He became a deputy constable and subsequently the clerk of a justice of the peace court, where he observed lawyers and read law independently; he obtained a law license in 1911. He became justice of the peace shortly thereafter and was elected district attorney of Harris County in 1914.

As a vigorous "law-and-order" district attorney, Crooker cleared the criminal docket during his first term and closed down Houston's vice district in 1917. After the Camp Logan race riot later that year, he arrested the persons thought to have been guilty but was thwarted in his effort to try military personnel in the state courts. However, he was invited to assist in the military courts-martial held in San Antonio. In the summer of 1918 Crooker resigned from office to accept a commission in the army with the rank of major. He served briefly in California and on the judge advocate general's staff in Washington before returning to Houston and private law practice in 1919. There he joined with Rufus Clarence Fulbright to form the firm of Fulbright and Crooker (now Fulbright and Jaworski). Crooker directed litigation for the firm and managed it after Fulbright became resident partner in a new office of the firm in Washington in 1927. When Crooker retired in 1960, the firm had thirty partners.

Crooker crusaded against the Ku Klux Klan in the twenties and played a key role in the legal maneuvers that preserved Lyndon B. Johnson's election to the United States Senate in 1948. He was active in the business and real estate development of Houston. From 1920 to 1922 he was the principal owner of Houston's minor-league baseball club, the Houston Buffs; he sold his interest to the St. Louis Cardinals. Later he built the Ben Milam Hotel. He was elected to the board of directors of the First National Bank of Houston in 1943 and continued to serve on the board of its successor, First City National Bank.

Crooker was reared a Catholic, but he joined the Episcopal Church in his late teens. He married Marguerite Malsch, the daughter of Hortense S. Ward, in 1913, and the couple had two sons. Crooker joined the Grey Lodge of the Masonic order in 1908 and was elected grand master of the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1933. He died in Houston on August 14, 1975.

Robert V. Haynes, A Night of Violence: The Houston Riot of 1917 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976). Texas Bar Journal, January 1976.

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Criminal Law and District Attorneys
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Newton Gresham and James A. Tinsley, “Crooker, John Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 17, 2022,

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December 1, 1994
December 7, 2016

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