Celebrating 50 Years of Service: David W. Crews: A Visionary on a Mission

Rep. David W. Crews
Dr. David W. Crews sponsored the legislation creating the College.

In mid-1962, shortly after Dr. George J. Beto had become Director of the Texas Department of Corrections, Conroe legislator David W. Crews traveled to Huntsville to meet the new head of the prison system. During their meeting the two men lamented the lack of cooperation between the Texas Department of Corrections and Sam Houston State Teachers College. Dr. Beto recalled during that initial meeting Representative Crews said that he would prefer to see Sam Houston known for a criminology program.

The two men – who became immediate friends – parted that day with the understanding that they would work together to bring Representative Crews’ vision to fruition.

The House Chambers at the Texas Capital.
The House Chambers at the Texas Capital.
Working closely with Beto over the next several months, Representative Crews introduced House Resolution 469 during the 58th Legislative Session.

In February 1964 Dr. Arleigh Templeton was named President of Sam Houston, and he wholeheartedly embraced the resolution and all that it implied.

In September 2014, in preparation of the criminal justice program’s 50th anniversary, former Representative Crews, now retired from the practice of law, was contacted and asked a series of questions about his vision.

What prompted you to propose legislation creating a criminal justice program at Sam Houston?

DWC: I saw that having a college and the prison system administration so close to each other as something to be utilized for the greater benefit of both institutions. The timing was right; Dr. Beto, with his background in academia and his political ties, was the first man in a position to get it done.

Dr. George Beto
Dr. George Beto
I’ll tell you a funny story about my first meeting with Dr. Beto. When I went to meet with him, he suggested that we go over to the Director’s House for lunch. When we got there, Mrs. Beto was not there so he asked the inmate cook to fix something for lunch. Apparently the inmate cook was caught off guard, and all he could prepare for us on such short notice was tomato soup. I do not like tomato soup, but I ate it anyway.

What did you see as the benefits for the college and the Texas Department of Corrections? Was your vision realized?

DWC: As an education school Sam Houston was a natural fit to create a teaching college for corrections and law enforcement. I will admit that I never envisioned the center being the nationally, and even internationally, recognized program that it has become. Yes, my vision has been more than realized. I’m truly amazed at what this program has become.

Who were the important players in this legislation both in Huntsville and Austin, and why?

DWC: First and foremost would be Dr. Beto. Without his guidance none of this would have happened. Arleigh Templeton as President of the college saw the benefits of developing a criminal justice program and worked with Dr. Beto to make it a reality. George Killinger gave the center its initial direction and promoted it throughout the state.

In Austin, Senator Bill Moore and Representative Bill Heatly were instrumental in making sure the funding for the center was allocated.

Texas Capital
Texas Capital
How did you sell the legislation in the Texas Legislature? What was the lynchpin for approval? Did you have a lot of support or opposition? Did you gain or lose any major provisions in the bill?

DWC: There was no funding attached to the bill so that was a definite selling point.The opposition thought it was a waste of time and didn’t see the value of doing it. I spent a lot of time talking to several in opposition. Of course, some thought it would be better in their district and were not in favor of it for that reason alone. I put together the bill and consulted with Dr. Beto. As soon as he agreed to the language in it that’s what I presented and that’s what passed.

What was the legislative climate on crime, criminal justice, and social research at the time? Has that changed?

DWC: Social research was being done independently. The state did not really provide funding for social research. The legislature was adding more laws for specific crimes every year. It brought in to focus by those in the legislature of how criminal justice should be approached in Texas. Training and education of law enforcement and correctional staff was limited in Texas prior to the creation of the program. In the years since its inception, and particularly since the building of the Criminal Justice Center, there have been literally thousands of people from all over the United States and from many other countries who have derived benefit from this program.

Criminal Justice CenterHow did you feel when the legislation passed?

DWC: Oh, I was elated. I saw this as the first step in addressing some of the problems associated with the criminal justice field.

What were your thoughts or feelings when the building was dedicated?

DWC: I had a sense of accomplishment and pride in my contribution toward the realization of the center. Too, it was a tangible symbol of the work many people did to create it, for which they all may be proud.

Part of the legislation called for workshops and training institutes for the professional development of persons already employed in criminal justice agencies. Do you have any thoughts on the work of the Correctional Management Institute and the Law Enforcement Management Institute?

DWC: Professional development training was an integral part of the resolution, and I am informed that both institutes deliver quality training and technical assistance to those agencies that make up our system of justice. While you didn’t ask me this, I was particularly pleased when I learned in 1994 that Dan Beto had been named the founding Director of the Correctional Management Institute of Texas. I know his father would have been proud of him.

David Crews was presented the Defensor Pacem Award from the College in 2003.
David Crews was presented the Defensor Pacem Award from the College in 2003.
What do you think of the College today? DWC: While the Criminal Justice Center is providing a vital service, there is still tremendous potential for growth. With emerging technologies, and with growing global issues impacting various facets of the criminal justice system, the Center is well positioned to provide the education and training for the next generation of practitioners.

I continue to follow the progress of the Center. In 2003 I was honored when the Center presented me with the Defensor Pacem Award, a recognition I truly cherish.

What does it offer to the field of criminal justice overall?

DWC: It offers a world class facility for the continued growth in education and training for law enforcement, institutional and community corrections, and the administration of justice.

Member of The Texas State University System