Friday, March 20, 2009
Services Set for Judge Crowder, Last of the ‘Hat Squad’
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Services will be held March 30 for retired Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Harold Crowder, who died Monday at age 83.
Crowder, who lived in Nevada in recent years, died with family members and friends present at a family member’s home in Lancaster, a friend told the MetNews.
Crowder served as a judge and commissioner for more than two decades, but was renowned for his work at the Los Angeles Police Department, where he was part of the legendary “Hat Squad” of robbery detectives.
Crowder, Clarence “Red” Stromwall, Max Herman, and Edward Benson were known for their dapper attire—they favored fedoras with three-inch brims during the colder months, and yellow Panamas in the summer, and tailor-made suits that cost them about two weeks’ pay each—and their pre-Miranda tactics.
They became the models for television and movie characters, including the four detectives in the 1990s movie “Mulholland Falls.” Crowder was the last of the four to join the squad, in 1959.
“We were always together,” Crowder once told a reporter. “If one guy went to the john, all four of us went to the john. And we always had our hats on.”
All except Benson, who died in 1970, went on to become lawyers, and Crowder and Stromwall became judges. Herman died in 1987 and Stromwall in 1996.
Crowder was an Oklahoma native and World War II veteran who joined the LAPD in 1947, shortly after moving here. He started as a foot patrolman, returned to military service during the Korean War, and then came back to the LAPD, eventually earning a place in the Robbery Division before it merged with the Homicide Division.
The foursome came to an end when Herman, who had graduated from law school with Stromwall several years earlier, left the department in 1962 to practice law. Crowder attended Southwestern Law School at night, earned his degree in 1966, and retired the following year to join Herman and two other lawyers in the firm of Herman, Crowder, Rodney & McCann.
The lawyers, partner Morgan Rodney—who remains an active member of the State Bar and also worked in the Robbery Squad—“did a little of everything, domestic and business and whatever would come in with a fee.” Crowder, he said, did a lot of pro bono work, although it “wasn’t always intended to be” free of charge.
Crowder practiced with the firm from 1967 to 1974, when he was appointed a Los Angeles Municipal Court commissioner. In 1985, then-Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him a judge.
He later became the first supervising judge of the court’s Hollywood branch.
He retired in 1996, but regularly came back to serve on assignment, rotating for a time with another retired judge, three weeks on and three weeks off, at the arraignment court on Bauchet Street.
Now-Superior Court Judge Robert Schuitt, who had the courtroom next to Crowder’s at the time and lunched with him regularly, said he was “a terrific guy to talk to” and was still treated as a celebrity when they ate at the Police Academy’s public cafeteria.
Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. on March 30, in the Hall of Liberty at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood Hills. A reception is to follow.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company