Walter Crockett

Obituary
  • "I learned of Hob Crockett's death with a sense of sadness..."
    - Jo Switzer
  • "What a life enriching person and great teacher. Goody..."
  • "Dear Walter, Judy,and Steve, my love to all of you and to..."
    - Andy Levison
  • "Hob was a distinguished colleague in the Department of..."
    - Doug Denney
  • "Hob and Helen nurtured and inspired generations of graduate..."
    - Shirley Domer

Walter H. "Hob" Crockett, 96, died Tuesday, Oct. 31, at his home in Lawrence. He was a retired professor of communications studies and social psychology at the University of Kansas, and the first director of KU's Gerontology Center, now Life Span Institute.

Hob was born in Strawn, Kansas, son of Harry J. and Onta (Hughes) Crockett. He attended Emporia State College, where he joined the National Guard at age 16, overstating his age by two years to do so. He left college in December 1940, when his Guard unit, the 137th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Division, was mobilized for World War II.

Hob later transferred to the Army Air Corps and piloted planes in the U.S. and India during the war. While in pilot training, he met and married Helen (Cheairs) Crockett. The couple celebrated their 74th anniversary last April.

After the war, Hob enrolled in the University of Kansas and earned a bachelors degree and a masters in sociology. He received a doctorate in social psychology at the University of Michigan in 1953. He taught social psychology at Kansas State University in Manhattan from 1953 to 1957 and was professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., from 1957 to 1968. He then returned to KU and taught and conducted research until his retirement in 1988.

Hob was an avid fan of KU basketball and served two terms on the Athletic Board. During retirement he was on the boards of AARP Kansas and the Douglas County Senior Center.

Hob Crockett's parents were Democrats, and his social and political views were shaped by books he read as a student at KU. He worked for civil rights and civil liberties throughout his adult life. He joined the Democratic Party in Michigan in the 1940s. He was a member of the NAACP in all the communities he lived in. He was active in movements to end segregation in movie theaters in Lawrence in the late 1940s and in barbershops in Manhattan, in the mid-'50s, and to end job discrimination at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette in the mid-'60s. More interested in changing minds than in strident dispute, Hob was known among those he worked with as a voice of calm and reason.

He leaves his wife, Helen; three children: Judith Crockett and her partner Mike Buchholz of Portland, Ore., Walter Crockett Jr. and his wife Nancy (Fogg) of Holden, Mass., and Stephen Crockett and his wife Gloria (Vasquez) of Lawrence; a sister, Sally Comfort, of Seattle, Wash.; five grandchildren and eight great-granddaughters. His brother, Harry J. Crockett of Lincoln, Neb., died in 1987.

A memorial ceremony will be held at 2 p.m., Nov. 11, at the KU Adams Center, 1266 Oread Ave., Lawrence.
Published in Lawrence Journal-World on Nov. 3, 2017
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