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Prominent Knoxville lawyer Robert L. Crossley dies at 78

A memorial service will be held Monday for prominent Knoxville lawyer and former Knoxville mayor Robert L. Crossley who died Friday. He was 78.  

A native of Cleveland, Crossley moved to Knoxville with his family in 1938. He graduated from Knoxville High School in 1946 and entered the U.S. Navy, serving in Guam. After completion of his military service, he enrolled at the University of Tennessee and received a law degree in 1952. He was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity, Phi Eta Sigma honorary society, Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity, Omicron Delta Kappa honorary society, and was elected to the Order of the Coif. He was editor-in-chief of the Tennessee Law Review in 1952.

After graduation from law school, he worked as a tax advisor for the accounting firm Lybrand, Ross Bros. & Montgomery in New York City for two years. He returned to Knoxville in 1954, and began his practice of law with the firm Morton and Morton. Several years later, he joined Fowler, Rowntree and Fowler where he practiced until 1962.

He served as Knoxville City Law Director from 1962 to 1965. In 1964, when Mayor John Duncan was elected to the U.S. Congress, Crossley was appointed acting mayor. He served 31 days until Leonard Rogers took office as mayor in early January of 1965.

Crossley then returned to the private practice of law, joining the firm Baker, Worthington, Barnett and Crossley in 1965. Over the next thirty years, the firm, which came to be known as Baker, Worthington, Crossley, Stansberry  Woolf, grew to become one of the largest and most prestigious in the state.    In 1995, desiring to return to a smaller and more personal practice of law, Crossley joined the firm Long, Ragsdale and Waters. He later formed The Crossley Law Firm and enjoyed the solo practice of law. At the time of his death, he was a member of the firm Lacy, Moseley and Crossley.   

In 1959, Crossley was asked to teach a class to help prepare U.T. law school graduates for the bar exams. At that time there was no established bar study program. Crossley started the Crossley Bar Review that year with a little over a dozen students. The program eventually was taken statewide, and over the next 38 years prepared over 10,000 future lawyers, judges and law professors for the state bar examination.

Crossley sold the program in 1997 to a national bar review company.    Crossley was a member of the Knoxville, Tennessee and American Bar Associations. He served as president of the Knoxville Bar Association in 1975. The local association twice honored him for his service, giving him the prestigious Governor’s Award, the Association’s highest honor, in 2005, and naming him a fellow of the Knoxville Bar Foundation in 2003. He served as a member of the Tennessee Supreme Court Commission on the Future of the Tennessee Judicial System, and was certified as a Civil Trial Specialist by the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization. He was also nominated for appointment to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1998 by the Tennessee Judicial Selection Commission.

Crossley was a longtime member of the old Knoxville City Club, Cherokee Country Club and Club LeConte.  He was active in community affairs, including service as the Chairman of the Board of The Webb School of Knoxville. He was an active member of St. John’s Cathedral, serving as a lay reader and usher. In his spare time, he enjoyed golf, travel, family and friends.   

Crossley was preceded in death by his parents, W. J. and Elva Crossley. He is survived by his wife, Janet Testerman Crossley; a brother, W. J. (Bud) Crossley, Jr. and wife, Lib; a sister, Nancy Crossley Dean and husband, Scott; children, R. Louis Crossley, Jr. and wife, Laurie; Catherine E. (Trinka) O’Fallon and husband, Jim, and Mary A. Crossley and husband, Tom Juring; step-children, Muffet Testerman Buckner and husband, Jimmy; Ben Testerman and wife, Ramona; Janet Testerman Cleary and husband, Dennis; six grandchildren, six step-grandchildren and several nephews and nieces.

A memorial service for Robert L. Crossley will be held at 3 p.m. Monday at St. John's Cathedral (413 Cumberland Ave.)

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