We’d like to think that when we leave this world, we depart it better than we found it, having made an impact either personally or professionally. Rarely do many of us impact both aspects of our lives in such a way as Fred G. Crumpler, Jr., longtime Winston-Salem attorney, who passed away in January 2020; but then, much of everything about Fred was rare.
From Simple Beginnings to the Supreme Court
Fred was born in Danville, VA, on January 8, 1931, and grew up on a farm in Germanton with a mother who instilled in him the importance of an education, which he took to heart.
“After Fred graduated from RJ Reynolds High School, he attended Appalachian State before entering the Air Force. While in the Air Force, Fred took an aptitude test and found he had an interest in law, leading him to attend Guilford College on the GI bill, and WFU on a scholarship. Fred worked at a law firm in Rockingham County before returning to Winston-Salem and establishing his own practice,” said Marsha Crumpler, Fred’s widow.
There was one particular case that Fred worked on that would have a major impact on the criminal justice system.
The case of Henry Alford established the Alford Plea, in the early 1970s, where a criminal defendant can enter a plea agreement, in which he/she does not admit guilt, but still acknowledges the prosecutors have enough evidence to convict if the case went to trial. An Alford Plea is treated like a guilty plea. Henry Alford pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Fred’s advice to avoid the death penalty; however, the case would go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was upheld and since then, an Alford Plea has been recognized among all 50 states.
But where his peers saw a well-known, experienced, formidable attorney, family and friends knew that Fred was still a farmer on a tractor, full of stories to tell and wisdom to share.
It’s a Wonderful Life
Beyond his time in the courtroom, Fred spent many a day finding new adventures, and for the last 35 years of his life, his partner was wife, Marsha.
“We met,” recalled Marsha, “when he was handling a legal matter for me. From early on in our relationship, life with Fred was magical. He had a ‘planned spontaneity’ to him. Our first date was him flying us to Madison, NC for breakfast. Fred had a love of flying and throughout our life together, we also enjoyed hiking, riding horses, and hunting. We particularly loved sailing and had many adventures on the water. He definitely broadened my horizons with whatever he suggested, like flying to Ocracoke for a picnic.” Fred always had a love of animals with horses, donkeys, llamas, geese, ducks, goats, and his special companion, Jackson, a German Shepherd.
“Fred and Jackson had a bond like I’d never seen. Jackson never left his side over the years and as Fred’s health declined, they seemed to get closer. One day, while I was out, Fred and Jackson took a walk down the driveway and on the way back to the house, Fred fell. It was getting dark and cold. As I pulled in the driveway, I saw Fred, with Jackson curled up by his side,” Marsha said. Fred’s love of animals became a passion when he met Lori Shore-Smith, a local animal advocate, as she sought his counsel for issues involving Animal Control.
Lori recalls, “When Fred worked with me and others on issues we were having at Animal Control, his passion for animals came to life. After getting to know him and Marsha, they had always loved their animals, from horses to dogs, but he really found a cause he could rally many in the community behind; Fred had such respect in our area that it didn’t take much to get people on board and make major changes. Over the years, Fred became a source of wisdom, advice, and encouragement. I would drop by the farm to see Fred and Marsha, just to talk and hear his stories and one thing you knew, was, he loved Marsha the way a woman wants a man to love her. He never lost his love for her or for life; Fred was a true Southern Gentleman, and I loved him like he was my second father.”
Checking All the Boxes
Those who knew Fred throughout his life knew he didn’t leave things unfinished; if he wanted to do it, he did it, whether that was in the courtroom or in his relationships. Marsha observed, “Fred believed in living life to the fullest and I was fortunate to live my life with him. He dealt with cancer as he did everything…head-on, and in the last days, he chose quality of life over quantity. A few times, including in a plane crash, Fred skirted death, but nothing stopped him. After his passing, I received letters from people he had helped along the way, and they shared how he impacted their lives. I had no idea to the degree that he made a difference in this world. We did everything we wanted, the way we wanted…together. At the end of life, how many people can say they ‘checked all the boxes’? Fred could say that, and the world is better for him being in it.”