William Charles “Bill” Crosby spent more than 30 years as a police reporter for The Sacramento Union, then pursued a second career as a state correctional officer.
Mr. Crosby, a Sacramento native and Elk Grove resident, died Feb. 25 of complications following hip surgery, his family said. He was 72.
Jim Jenkins, a longtime colleague at The Union, said Mr. Crosby mentored generations of young crime reporters, including his competitors at The Sacramento Bee and television news stations.
“He was one of the best reporters on either newspaper,” Jenkins said, recalling that Mr. Crosby seemed to have unlimited contacts and great rapport with law enforcement officers.
Mr. Crosby was born June 29, 1942, to James and Barbara Crosby. He was the eldest of three children and grew up in East Sacramento.
Mr. Crosby’s sister, Kathy Davis, said their mother worked for 30 years as payroll supervisor for the Sacramento Police Department, so her brother became acquainted with many of the officers in his youth.
He graduated from Sacramento High School in 1960, then enrolled at Sacramento City College, where he studied journalism. He had started working at The Union as a collections boy in the billing office when he was 16, Davis said. He later became a copy boy, then was promoted to cub reporter.
“Even as a teenager, he was obsessed with getting a story,” Davis said, recalling that a police scanner was on at their home day and night.
In 1964, Mr. Crosby joined the Army National Guard and served in the reserves. “He was a 25-year weekend warrior type,” Davis said.
But his job at The Sacramento Union “was the love of his life,” said Mr. Crosby’s wife, Carole Steyskal.
Stories on the crime beat were often difficult, but “he had a realistic viewpoint of what he was doing,” said Gloria Glyer, who worked with Mr. Crosby at The Union. “He knew what he had to say in his stories.”
He covered all the major crime in the Sacramento area for three decades, including the Dorothea Puente boardinghouse murders and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme’s attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford, as well as the crash of an airplane into a Farrell’s ice cream parlor.
Although highly competitive, Mr. Crosby helped and encouraged other reporters.
Sacramento Bee reporter Bill Lindelof was a night police reporter for several years in the mid- to late 1970s, competing much of that time with Mr. Crosby, who had worked the beat for some time and was well liked by police.
“I found that I had to work extra hard to get stories that would beat The Union, because Bill was so good at his job.” Lindelof said. “That meant I rolled on marginal car crashes, read perhaps 100 booking sheets every night at the jail and cajoled officers for information, officers who probably wanted to talk to ‘Croz’ rather than the wet-behind-the-ears Bee reporter. Once I met Bill, I found that he was a friendly competitor. He had a great smile, a wonderful sense of humor and was quick to buy the kid from The Bee a beer.”
Steyskal said her husband was laid off by The Union before the newspaper folded in 1994. After briefly trying his hand at real estate, he decided to become a correctional officer and went through the academy at age 50.
He was assigned to California State Prison, Solano, in Vacaville, and Steyskal said he found his age was an advantage. The inmates assumed he was a veteran officer transferred from another prison, not someone new to the job, so they didn’t give him a hard time.
“They called him ‘Grandpa,’ ” Steyskal said.
Davis said her brother didn’t have the tough demeanor she associated with correctional officers, but he got along well with colleagues and inmates. Like crime reporting, she said, “it gave him an avenue to kibitz with people.”
Mr. Crosby retired in October 2005 but continued to keep busy. He liked to take apart and repair computers, and volunteered at the senior center in Elk Grove, helping with computer classes, Steyskal said. He also was involved with the local historical society and the Methodist Church.
In addition to his wife and sister, Mr. Steyskal is survived by his son Stephen Crosby of Elk Grove, daughter Susan Beslik of Portland, Ore., brother Tom Crosby of Lincoln and two grandchildren.
At Mr. Crosby’s request, no funeral is planned. Instead, Steyskal said, family and friends gathered Saturday for a wake at his home.
Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.