Glen Craig will be eulogized, remembered and honored in Sacramento on Thursday for his life of achievement as a lawman. He was arguably the most respected law enforcement leader to serve in the state Capitol in the last half-century.
The top man at the California Highway Patrol, the director for the state Department of Justice and Sacramento’s sheriff for 12 years, Craig died suddenly on Dec. 26 when he had an aortic aneurism while playing golf. His funeral service on Thursday comes on what would have been Craig’s 82nd birthday, lending a touch of poignancy to a celebration of a distinctive man. It will not be surprising if some of Sacramento’s toughest law enforcement officers – Craig’s many protégés – shed tears when recalling a bespectacled, courtly man who was much deeper than his reserved persona ever indicated.
“He was my mentor and my dear friend,” said former Sheriff John McGinness, who will deliver Craig’s eulogy at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Vintage Park Drive on Thursday. So, what skill did Craig possess to inspire loyalty among disparate groups of people?
What drove Craig from a humble youth of farming with his family to a self-made career in law enforcement that was built like a sturdy house –brick by brick – while constantly working, learning and connecting with people?
“That’s a good question,” said Craig’s son Kevin Craig by phone on Tuesday. “I don’t really know.” Just then, a female voice – Kevin’s sister Deborah Rousseau –chimed in. “He got that from his father.” Alton Craig was a Depression-era seeker straight out of John Steinbeck who rode the rails from destitute Alabama to a dream of work in California.
He raised Glen in the Tulare County town of Lindsay, where Glen was a basketball star. The family followed the crops in the summer. “He used to talk about working on the Delta and watching people dancing on the (Delta river boats) as they floated by,” Rousseau said.
A dreamer and a seeker was born, one who did everything by the book except when it came to his soul mate. In a secret he kept most of his life, Craig – all of 19 – told a white lie and said he was 21 when he eloped to marry his beloved Dorothy, his wife for the next 62 years.
Other than that: He was the captain of his community college basketball team, a military police man in the Army, a restless foot soldier in the CHP who was so ambitious, he was constantly testing to rise in rank. “We moved 12 times by the time we were in high school,” Kevin says now. “We never took family vacations because my dad was always studying.”
A lifelong Republican, Craig was appointed to run the CHP by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1975 when Brown was in his maverick, liberal zenith. Craig the conservative fought to create opportunities for women in the CHP. When he was Sacramento County sheriff, outgoing Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully viewed him as a true mentor.
To his dying day, Craig made personal connections and wanted to know about everyone he met. “The night before he died, he was talking to a man we had over for dinner – someone Dad had never met,” Kevin Craig said. “Now that man is calling us constantly, upset about our dad, and he only met him once.”
It’s why people will shed tears for Glen Craig on Thursday – not so much for the lawman but for the man himself.
Call The Bee’s Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096.