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George E. Crothers

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An undated photograph of George E. Crothers

George Edward Crothers (May 27, 1870 – May 16, 1957) was one of the first students at Stanford University and was instrumental in putting the university on a solid legal and financial footing following the deaths of its founders, Leland and Jane Stanford. He served as a member of Stanford's board of trustees and as a California superior court judge. His monetary gifts to his alma mater made possible the construction of two student residences on the Stanford campus—one named for himself, the other dedicated to the memory of his mother.

Early life[edit]

George Crothers was born on May 27, 1870 in Wapello, Iowa to John Crothers and Margaret Jane Crothers (née Fair), who had emigrated to the United States from Ireland the previous year.[1] The family moved to San Jose, California in 1883, and George enrolled at Stanford in 1891 as part of the new university's "pioneer class".[2][3] He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford in 1895, followed by a law degree in 1896.[4][5]


Crothers set up a law practice with his brother, Thomas[4]—also a Stanford graduate and a lawyer—and became a close adviser to Jane Stanford.[2] Together with his brother, Crothers identified and corrected numerous major legal defects in the terms of the university's founding grant[6] and successfully lobbied for an amendment to the California state constitution granting Stanford an exemption from taxation on its educational property[7]—a change which allowed Jane Stanford to donate her stock holdings to the university.[5][6][8] In 1902, Crothers became the first alumnus of Stanford to serve as a member of the university's board of trustees.[4][9]

Crothers became involved in legal action over the estate of his maternal uncle, James Graham Fair. Nettie Craven claimed to have been married to Fair at the time of his death, but at a 1900 trial, Crothers' detailed analysis of the handwriting on the documents Craven had offered in support of her claim convinced the court that they were forgeries.[10]

From 1913 to 1921, Crothers served as a judge of the Superior Court in San Francisco, California.[2] One case which came before him involved a physician whose license had been revoked by the State Board of Medical Examiners for performing an abortion. Judge Crothers refused to overturn the board's revocation on technical grounds, and his decision was upheld on appeal.[11][12] Even after Crothers' retirement from the bench and his return to private law practice, he was commonly referred to as "Judge" throughout the rest of his life. In a 1956 letter, former U.S. president (and Stanford classmate) Herbert Hoover wrote, "Judge George E. Crothers was my good friend in bad times and in good times for over sixty years".[13]


The Crothers Halls on the Stanford University campus

Crothers established a scholarship fund for Stanford law students in 1912.[2] In 1929, he established an annual prize fund for literary composition at the University of California.[14] A set of carillon bells for Grace Cathedral in San Francisco was cast with the help of donations from Crothers and other benefactors.[15]

In his later years, Crothers made a donation to Stanford for the construction of Crothers Hall, an on-campus dormitory for law students which opened in 1948.[16][17] With the help of additional gifts by Crothers, a second residence (for graduate students in engineering) was built next to the first; opened in 1955, it was named Crothers Memorial Hall in memory of the judge's mother.[2][18][19] These two residences were extensively renovated and converted into undergraduate housing in 2009.[20][21][22] The name "Crothers Memorial" is commonly abbreviated to "Cro Mem" — a short form which was the inspiration for the early personal computer company Cromemco.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Elizabeth Mills

Crothers married Elizabeth Mills in 1911. They were unable to have children, and Elizabeth was 38 years old when she died in 1920.[24]


Crothers died at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, California on May 16, 1957.[2][4][25] He is buried in San Jose, California, along with his parents.[4][26]


  1. ^ Clausen, p. 9.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Osborne, George E. (December 1957). "Judge George Edward Crothers, 1870–1957". Stanford Law Review. 10 (1): 1–3. Retrieved July 28, 2011. 
  3. ^ Crothers, Elizabeth Mills (1921). The Ascent & Other Poems. Sunset Press. Retrieved July 31, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "George Crothers Dies at 86". San Francisco Chronicle. May 17, 1957. p. 32. Retrieved August 2, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Berg, Jerry E. (ed.) (April 1963). "A legal history of the titles, trusts and organization of the Leland Stanford Junior University". Unpaginated collection of documents at the Stanford University Law School library. Retrieved July 29, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Clausen, pp. 41–56.
  7. ^ Grodin, Joseph R.; Massey, Calvin R.; Cunningham, Richard B. (1993). The California State Constitution: A Reference Guide. Greenwood Press. p. 311. ISBN 0-313-27228-X. Retrieved July 31, 2011. 
  8. ^ Mirrielees, Edith R. (1959). Stanford: The Story of a University. G. P. Putnam's Sons. p. 97. LCCN 59-13788. 
  9. ^ Hansen, Ralph W. (April 1974). "The Stanford University Library: Genesis 1891–1906". The Journal of Library History. University of Texas Press. 9 (2): 149. JSTOR 25540561. 
  10. ^ Shuck, Oscar T. (1901). History of the Bench and Bar of California. Commercial Printing House. p. 344. ISBN 978-1-58477-706-9. LCC KF354.C3S54 2006. Retrieved August 3, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Medicine Before the Bench". California State Journal of Medicine. 18 (9): 344. September 1920. PMC 1594375Freely accessible. PMID 18738284. 
  12. ^ Jordan v. Alderson et al., 32 California Appellate Decisions 826 (1st Dist. 1920).
  13. ^ Clausen, p. 154.
  14. ^ "Elizabeth Mills Crothers Prizes in Literary Composition", University of California, Berkeley, Financial Aid and Scholarships Office. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
  15. ^ Baldwin, Rosa Lee (1940). The Bells Shall Ring: An Account of the Chime Bells of Grace Cathedral. James J. Gillick & Co. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-4191-2011-4. Retrieved August 3, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Founding of the Leland Stanford Junior University", Afterword. Stanford Historical Society. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  17. ^ Joncas, Richard; Neuman, David J.; Turney, Paul Venable (2006). Stanford University: The Campus Guide (2nd ed.). Princeton Architectural Press. p. 117. ISBN 1-56898-538-X. LCC LD3031.J65 2006. Retrieved August 1, 2011. 
  18. ^ Clausen, p. 141.
  19. ^ From the bronze dedicatory plaque in the Crothers Memorial lobby. Viewed April 6, 2010. The plaque reads as follows: "CROTHERS MEMORIAL HALL / Opened September 24, 1955 / This residence hall for Stanford University engineering students / erected in memory of / MARGARET JANE CROTHERS / was made possible by the gifts from one of her six sons / JUDGE GEORGE E. CROTHERS / a member of the Class of 1895 and lifelong benefactor / of his alma mater".
  20. ^ "2010: A year of unprecedented construction". Stanford Report. October 5, 2009. Retrieved January 17, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Crothers & Crothers Memorial Renovation". Stanford University, Project Management. Retrieved January 17, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Tour Undergraduate Housing: Crothers Hall", Stanford University, Student Housing. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  23. ^ "Hey, look who's here: It's Personal Chapstick!". InfoWorld: 34. May 31, 1982. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  24. ^ Clausen, p. 76.
  25. ^ Clausen, p. 157.
  26. ^ Clausen, p. 23.


  • Clausen, Henry C. (1967). Stanford's Judge Crothers: The Life Story of George E. Crothers. The George E. Crothers Trust. LCCN 67-17964.