May 30, 1909
EX-GOV. T. T. CRITTENDEN, SR.
Twice a member of congress, once the governor of his state, at another time consul general to Mexico and for the last eight years referee in bankruptcy, Thomas T. Crittenden died at dawn yesterday morning. Thursday afternoon the ex-governor sustained a stroke of apoplexy. While watching a ball game he fell unconscious from his seat and did not regain his mental faculties. Death came at 5:30 yesterday. Interment is to be made tomorrow afternoon in Forest Hill cemetery, after services at the family residence, 3230 Flora avenue.
With the former governor at the time of his death were all surviving members of the family save one, that one now traveling in Japan. The grief stricken family is Mrs. Crittenden, Thomas T. Crittenden, Jr., mayor of Kansas City; H. Houston Crittenden, and W. J. Crittenden. It is the latter who was unable to be at his distinguished father's side till the last.
With Governor Crittenden there died a man of parts, and all those parts true facts. He was a soldier of renown, having fought and won battles which turned form this state the tide of slavery. He was a courageous man, having, in the face of the enemy, been appointed to succeed a dismissed brigade commander because his senior had hesitated about making a charge which the division commander knew Crittenden was eager to make. He was a statesman, as his record in the congress of the United States and in Jefferson City shows. He was a man of commerce, as his most excellent direction of international commerce while consul general to Mexico bear out. He was a man of letters, widely read and collecting a magnificent library. He was a judge in equity, as is shown by the last eight years of his public service, and always, he was a gentleman.
Handsome of face, his bearing was striking. The last moment he was on his feet, with the weight of seventy-seven years on his shoulders and those added to by the infirmities of four years in the saddle during the civil war, he was straight as an arrow. Governor Crittenden had the bearing of a courtier. He was gracious always, charming his familiars and captivating his casual acquaintances. He spoke softly, chose his words and ever was anxious to do something for someone else. Never a moneymaker, he lived to see three splendid sons grow up to take care of that part of his affairs. Fond of public places, high ones, the old governor's happiness at seeing one of his sons become mayor of this city was taken by himself as an honor.
"Is this governor Crittenden?" would be asked.
"The mayor is my son," he would reply. The old governor enjoyed living all things in life.
He was a most thoughtful man. Obscurity found him delving. Great charities might take care of themselves, he would say, but little ones were hopeless, so he did little ones. Born in Shelby county, Ky., 77 years ago, he was born and bred a Democrat, and lived and died one, but he was a rampant Union man and helped raise a Union regiment with which he kept in the field throughout the war. He was of the Washington type, if history is to be believed.
Governor Crittenden believed in the dignity of the occasion. The men who fought under him and who yet live say he was almost a martinet within the regiment and at the same time a father to the men. As governor he lived up to his high office. When Madam Patti first visited Missouri someone proposed a ceremonial visit. Patti said it was like going to Windsor Castle. And yet this same man undertook to break up the James gang, summarily granted a pardon to a malefactor who had been the agent of destruction and paternally took the hand of a surviving member of the gang, Frank James. Nor did the kindly man ever lose sight of the objects of his official stoicism, for one of his constant correspondents and visitors was this same Frank James.
No situation was too perplexing for Governor Crittenden. He was governor when Missouri was in the transition stage. The war had not long been over. Democrats, he being one, were fighting to capture everything. The James boys were turned highwaymen and their names were associated with the contemporaneous history of the state. They lowered its level and defied capture. Missouri had had one governor who confessed inability to cope with the situation. Probably profiting by his experience in the war, Governor Crittenden made overtures to Bob Ford, a member of the James gang, and through that means encompassed the destruction of the band. Ford killed Jesse, and Frank, the second brother, surrendered. What in other states would have meant a feud for a generation was dismissed by the clever work of Governor Crittenden as soon as it was over.
No one was forgotten by Governor Crittenden. Had Dickens known him he would have gone into literature with other notable characters. As early as 1870 there was a man came to Kansas City to make some political speeches for the governor. Two years ago that man's dead body was found in squalor. The first hand to get into a purse to buy a grave and a casket was the hand of the old governor. He got not a little of his pleasure out of his personal acts of charity to his personal acquaintances.
It was a pleasure to know the old governor. He was always affable and sunny. He was comforting in sorrow and refreshing always. In his long life he was always busy, and yet he did no great things. He was a monument to the man who has not done great things in that he showed how really much an ordinary man can do with credit to himself and yet keep within the orbit of the ordinary man.