Douglass Anthony Crouch, two-term state legislator and Tarrant County district attorney, son of William and Martha Crouch, was born on December 9, 1922, in Florence, Alabama. The seventh of nine children, young Crouch moved with his family from Alabama to Texas in the early 1930s. He graduated from Denton High School in 1941, although he missed his own graduation ceremony due to being called up for service in World War II. Crouch spent more than four years in the United States Army.
After the war he returned to Denton and in 1948 received his bachelor’s degree in government from North Texas State College, now the University of North Texas. At North Texas State, Crouch was a member of the Quintillian Club, the College Players, and served as vice-president of the Pre-Law Club. He was keen on politics as a vocation at an early age. He announced his Democratic candidacy for Denton County’s state representative seat in June 1948, less than a month after graduating college. He was defeated in a primary run-off by the incumbent, Robert Hal Jackson (3,231 to 2,646). Douglass Crouch married Beula Beatrice Harbert of Denton on December 11, 1948, and completed his law degree at Southern Methodist University in 1950. Crouch again ran for the Denton County state representative seat in 1950, this time handily defeating his opponent, W.K. Baldridge, 3,959 to 2,617. Crouch ran for a second term unopposed in 1952.
In his first term, in the Fifty-second Texas Legislature, Crouch served on the Agriculture, Education, Highways and Roads, and Penitentiaries committees and as vice-chair of the State Hospitals and Special Schools Committee. He was a vociferous supporter of higher education. He not only opposed the House Appropriation Committee’s suggested cuts in college spending during the Fifty-second legislative session, but he responded by pursuing increased funding for Texas State College for Women (now Texas Woman’s University). His attempt failed by only two votes. During this legislative skirmish, Crouch was quoted as saying, “We must remember that wars cost money, and education is nothing more nor less than a war against ignorance.”
During his second term, Crouch again served on the State Hospitals and Special Schools Committee in addition to the Conservation and Reclamation, Counties, Labor, and Public Printing committees. He was a liberal Democratic presence in the legislature and proposed the abolition of the death penalty via H. B. No. 40. Additionally, Crouch was one of only four members of the House to vote against S. B. 4, which outlawed the Communist party in the state of Texas and made membership or support of the Communist party a felony with punishments of up to twenty years in prison and/or fines up to $20,000. In documenting his reason for voting nay, Crouch described the bill as, “a long step toward a police state.”
After his two terms in the Texas legislature, Crouch ran for attorney general in 1954 and lost in a Democratic party primary run-off to incumbent John Ben Sheppard by an overwhelming margin (962,456 to 237,047). That year he and his wife moved from Denton to Fort Worth and had their first child, daughter Carolyn, on August 31, 1954. Their second child, son Paul, was born on June 14, 1957. A third son, David, was born in 1969. Crouch had a private law practice until he was elected Tarrant County district attorney in 1958. He served in this position from 1959 to 1966.
Crouch’s time as district attorney was controversial. He hired Ollice Maloy, the first African American assistant district attorney for Tarrant County, as well as the first two African American women to work in the DA’s office, Dearleace Johnson and Marie Whigfall. He also pushed for the removal of “Whites Only” signs throughout the courthouse during his tenure. Crouch experienced the most criticism of his public career over his involvement with the Robert Maclin case. Maclin, a former attorney, was charged with shooting one of Crouch’s investigators who was standing on guard outside the Crouch home on the evening of January 7, 1965. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram questioned Crouch’s handling of a case that he was personally involved in and called for his resignation. Crouch refused to resign, but he did not seek re-election at the end of his term in 1965.
Crouch returned to private practice until he was appointed interim district attorney for Tarrant County by Governor Preston Smith in 1971, after the resignation of district attorney Frank D. Coffey. Crouch ran for the position in 1972 but lost to Tim Curry. He again returned to private practice until his retirement. He died of natural causes on July 4, 1995, at the age of seventy-two at his home in Granbury, Texas.