William H. Crook
Colonel, United States Army
WHITE HOUSE 50 YEARS JANUARY 5
President Wilson Will Help Celebrate Colonel Crook’s Half Century of Service
Lincoln Body Guard
WASHINGTON, December 20, 1914 – From President Wilson on down to the humblest janitor the White House is preparing for the celebration in January of Colonel William H. Crook’s fiftieth year of service at the Executive Mansion, which will be on January 5.
Colonel Crook’s official title is “Chief Disbursing Officer,” but he is more widely known as the “White House Encyclopedia.”
From Lincoln to Wilson is a good long stretch of service, and fully half of the White House traditions of today are matters of Colonel Crook’s experience. And whenever a matter relating to the dim and dusty archives of the White House comes up Colonel Crook is called upon to throw light upon it.
Colonel Crook has said he believes had he been on duty the night Lincoln was shot the assassination would never have been accomplished. The Colonel at the time was a member of President Lincoln’s body guard, and he had been on duty continuously when Lincoln started for Ford’s Theater, where he was shot.
The Colonel says he begged the President to let him accompany him, but Lincoln, with his usual consideration for those around him, remembered that Crook had been on duty for a day and a night, and insisted that another member of the body guard accompany the party. The guard, as it appears allowed himself to become more interests in the performance than in his duty, and Booth was enabled to enter the President’s box and fire the fatal shot.
There is one White House custom that started during the Colonel’s time which he cannot explain. Last Easter some discussion arose regarding the origin of the egg-rolling custom on the south lawn of the White House. Colonel Crook was appealed to for information, but much to his chagrin, he had none to offer.
When he was told a story of how the custom
started through President Grant inviting the children of Washington to
roll their Easter eggs with his daughter, Nellie, on the White House lawn,
the Colonel merely shook his head.
WASHINGTON, March 13, 1915 – Colonel William H. Crook, disbursing officer of the White House, who was President Lincoln’s body guard and who has been intimately acquainted with every President since 1860, died today at his home here. He had been sick with pneumonia more than a week.
Fifty years of service as a White House employee, through the administrations of twelve Presidents, made Colonel Crook one of the most familiar figures in the National Capital, and in his old age, left him rich in person reminiscences of the intimate side of the White House life. The assassinations of Lincoln and Garfield, various weddings at the White House and the impeachment of President Johnson, were among events which Colonel Crook recalled in memoirs of his half-century of White House service published in a magazine.
He was taken from the Washington Police Force in 1865 and appointed President Lincoln’s body guard. Prior to this he had served in the Union Army. He accompanied Lincoln on many of his walks and drives, and it was his duty to watch over the President during public receptions.
Colonel Crook collected letters and other mementoes
of the various Presidents under whom he served, including notes from all
the Presidents, who spoke in the highest terms of his faithfulness and
abilities. On the occasion of his 50th anniversary of entering the
White House, which he celebrated in January 1915, he was presently with
a cane, given by President Wilson and members of the White House Staff.
WASHINGTON, March 13, 1915 – Colonel William H. Crook, President Lincoln’s bodyguard, “My man Crook,” as he called him, and the disbursing officer of the White House, to which he had been attached for fifty years, died at his home here in hi 77th year.
He had served through the administrations of twelve Presidents and was identified with the private lives of all the occupants of the White House since 1865, when he was transferred from the Washington Police force and appointed Lincoln’s bodyguard. Before this he had served in the Union Army and taken part in many of the principal campaigns of the Civil War.
President Grant was an intimate friend of Colonel Crook and in 1870 appointed him “Executive Clerk of the President of the United States,” and in 1877 made his disbursing agent of the White House, which position he held until his death. He used to tell how he drove Guiteau, the assassin of President Garfield, away from the White House on the occasions before he finally succeeded in killing the President.
Colonel Crook was in one of the White House windows when Garfield was brought back after being shot. The President was conscious and waved his hand to a group of anxious White House employees. When he was dying, Crook heard that he would be helped by squirrel soup, and obtained a special permit, shot the squirrels, and supplied the soup.
In December 1914, he celebrated his fiftieth year of service in the White House, and there was a reception in his honor. President Wilson and the members of the White House staff presented him with a beautiful cane, and about ten days ago, the President gave him one of his pictured, inscribed, “To my good friend, Colonel Crook, from Woodrow Wilson.” The President was deeply grieved when told of Colonel Crook’s death.
Colonel Crook is survived by his mother, Mrs.
Mary A. Garton, who is ninety-six years old.
The burial was at Arlington National Cemetery.
CROOK, WILLIAM H
PCT CAPT KNIGHTS CO 3D BATTN D C MILTIA INF CW
DATE OF DEATH: 03/13/1915
BURIED AT: SECTION 15 SITE 48
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
posted: 29 July 2007 Updated: 9 October 2007 Updated: 19 October 2007
Photo By: M. R. Patterson, October 2007