Floyd E. Crowder, A.B. '55, J.D. '57, strongly supports his hometown—Columbia, Illinois. As the founder of Crowder & Scoggins, he has been serving the legal community for more than four decades, as well as piloting many civic improvements to benefit the citizens of this town.

"When I was a young boy," Floyd Crowder says, "my aunt said I talked so much that I'd make a good Philadelphia lawyer. That idea stuck, and I started telling people I was going to be a lawyer."

Born in Monroe County, Illinois, and brought up in a single-parent family after the age of six by a mother whose own education was interrupted by a childhood illness, neither Floyd nor his mother realized what it would take for him to become a lawyer. "Not knowing any better," he says, "I set out to do it. And here I am, some 44 years after graduating from law school, still being a lawyer."

In Columbia, Illinois, a fast-growing residential community 18 miles southeast of downtown St. Louis, Crowder is chairman of Crowder & Scoggins, a law firm with a diversified practice that he founded in 1964 shortly before he was elected state's attorney of Monroe County.

This was quite a homecoming for Crowder. He had practiced in St. Louis for a brief period after graduating from Washington University School of Law and being admitted to the Missouri Bar. Then, from 1957 to 1960, he spent three years on active duty as a U.S. Air Force judge advocate before returning to private practice with the firm of Walker & Williams in East St. Louis. The opportunity to run for office in Monroe County brought him back home, where he has since built an extensive practice in personal injury, civil rights, labor law, domestic relations, mortgage foreclosures, collections, municipal law, corporate and business law, estate planning, and miscellaneous litigation.

"Our practice differs from [that of] a lot of the big urban firms," he says, "where they have a firmer division of labor between office practitioners and litigators. We have somewhat that division, but most of our lawyers do both." Also, he says, "In a small community, it's a lot more personal. The judges, the lawyers, and their clients are frequently acquainted with one another."

After completing his first term as state's attorney, he became a special assistant attorney general for the state of Illinois for inheritance tax and other matters, serving from 1969 to 1983. In the interim, he served as Monroe County state's attorney again in 1976.

A collection of documents on Crowder's office wall recognize his past presidencies of the Monroe County and St. Clair County bar associations and his membership in the Illinois and Missouri bar associations, and, as a Fellow, the American Bar Association. He has been admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court of the Southern Illinois District, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court. "There are a few more certificates under my desk," he admits.

Lawyering: A Family Tradition

"I'm a first-generation lawyer, and both my daughter, Andrea, and my son-in-law, Mark Scoggins, who is married to my daughter, Joy, will carry on the tradition." Andrea Crowder Khoury, a 1998 Washington University law graduate, and Mark Scoggins are both attorneys with Crowder & Scoggins.

Crowder attributes his and the firm's success to his Washington University education. "One of the most important things I received from the law school was the ability to analyze and think. One professor in particular—Professor Wendell Carnahan—was someone most of us feared, but he was dedicated to making students analyze and question a situation and think about it."

His WU education paid off: "Often when taking a bar exam, a student will be prepared for parts or all of a number of questions. When I took the Illinois bar exam—a very difficult exam—I think I recognized one-half of one question," Crowder says. "I remember walking away from the last session, saying to myself, 'If I pass this test, it will only be because my education at Washington University taught me to analyze and think and then express myself well.'" After a pause, he adds, "I passed the test."

He and his wife, Judith, Life Fellows of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society, have generously given back to the University and its School of Law in gratitude for the benefits his education has brought them. The Crowder Courtyard in Anheuser-Busch Hall represents one of the significant commitments that enabled the law school to construct its magnificent new home. As a member of the School of Law National Council and in other volunteer roles, Crowder shares his counsel with the School's dean and faculty.

Crowder says, "I was in a six-year accelerated program to earn both my bachelor of arts and law degree, and I was also a cadet in the Air Force ROTC program. I received my commission when I finished my first year of law school and received my undergraduate degree. I still make effective use of the air science education I received at the University. We studied geopolitics, problem analysis and solution, and many things of general interest at the beginning of the jet age."

Navigating Service to Society

Crowder's broad general interests serve him well in his role with two charitable foundations he helped clients create. He directs the activities of the Dorothy Weinel Eppinger Foundation and the Sophia and Elmer Oerter Foundation.

The Eppinger Foundation sponsors year-round literary, theatrical, and musical programs and events, bringing a variety of cultural and entertainment programs to Columbia and opportunities for audience and performers to interact. Judith Crowder arranges the receptions for these programs.

The Oerter Foundation sponsors charitable, educational, literary, religious, and public objectives and programs. Some recent projects have included buying portable defibrillators for area police departments, developing a soccer field in Columbia, and one special project that has Crowder beaming with hometown pride: "I'm particularly proud of the plaza in the city park that we call the Admirals Memorial Circle, dedicated in 1997." Its focus is a monument to recognize Monroe County's two four-star admirals, both graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy: Admiral Carlisle A. H. Trost, a retired chief of naval operations, and Admiral John Weinel, a World War II, Korean, and Vietnam War hero who later served as U.S. representative to NATO in Europe.

Columbia is proud of its two four-star admirals and other strong connections with naval history. It is one of the namesake cities of the U.S.S. Columbia. Another area native, Commander August Weinel, a first cousin of Admiral Weinel and Dorothy Weinel Eppinger, was also a naval hero who was lost at sea when the submarine he commanded was sunk in the Sulu Sea in 1943.

Admirals Circle, which encloses a tall pillar-shaped monument inscribed with the admirals' biographical information, is surrounded by large circular stone benches. Crowder explains, "The monument was conceived both to honor the admirals and as an inspiration for local students."

Students who attend the schools next to the city park may well be impressed by the history behind the pillar in the center of Admirals Memorial Circle, but they also can learn a lesson of dedication and loyalty from the man who spearheaded the project, a living, breathing pillar of their community.

—John W. Hansford