Portrait from Virginia Democracy, Vol. III, 1940.
"The Old Dominion State" has fielded a host of new unusual names over the past few days, and none has proven to be more unusual than the man profiled today, Floridus Stott Crosby of Staunton, Virginia! Possessing a first name that sounds as if it could be a chemical on the periodic table of elements, Floridus Crosby was a lawyer and civic leader in Staunton who gained his taste of political prominence in 1922 when he was appointed as Commonwealth's Attorney for Staunton. In 1937 he succeeded to the post of Judge of the Corporation Court of Staunton, a post similar to that of a municipal judge. After several years on the bench, Crosby won election as Circuit Court Judge for Virginia's 18th judicial circuit, serving until ill health compelled his retirement. The son of John Fletcher Harris (1868-1948) and Janet (Burnett) Crosby, Floridus Stott Crosby was born in Staunton on January 15, 1893.
Born into a distinguished Staunton family, Floridus Crosby's father John was for many years auditor statistician for the Virginia state board of education, and in 1908 gained lasting repute for formulating "the idea of a city manager form of government", an idea that was later put into service by many American cities. Young Floridus was a student in schools local to Staunton and later enrolled at the Staunton Military Academy, graduating in 1911. For one year Crosby attended the Dunsmore Business College before beginning law studies at the University of Virginia, earning his bachelor of laws degree in 1917.
Following graduation, Crosby journeyed to Richmond, where he joined the law firm of Munford, Hinton, Williams, and Anderson, where he remained until deciding to join in the ongoing war effort. Though he was rejected for service due to physical disability, Crosby aided the war effort in other capacities, serving on the legal advisory board for Richmond and also participated in Victory Loan drives as a public speaker.
Crosby's middle name was misspelled in the 1911 Staunton Military Academy yearbook.
Returning to Staunton in 1919, Floridus Crosby partnered with Hugh Kerr in a joint law practice that would continue until 1927. Crosby first entered the political waters of his state in 1920 when he began a near two-decade tenure on the Staunton Democratic committee and served as its chairman for a ten year period. In 1922 Crosby was appointed as Commonwealth's Attorney for Staunton, succeeding Carter Braxton, who had died a few days previously. He served out the remainder of Braxton's term and in 1925 was elected to a term of his own in that office. He married in June 1925 to Martha Virginia Bell (1889-1975), with the couple's three-decade union being childless.
Through his time as commonwealth's attorney, Floridus Crosby continued to be active in local Democratic politics, being the Staunton based campaign manager for gubernatorial candidate Claude Swanson in 1922, gubernatorial candidate Harry Flood Byrd in 1925 and in 1933 was affiliated with the campaign of Governor George Peery. In 1928 Crosby resigned from the commonwealth attorney's office to focus on his banking interests, having accepted the post of trust officer with the National Valley Bank.
In 1937 Crosby was returned to government service when, a month following the death of sitting Judge Richard Ker, was appointed as Judge of the Corporation Court of Staunton, a post similar to that of a municipal judge. Initially seated as an interim judge, Crosby was elected by the state house of delegates for a full term of his own the following year. Three years into his service Crosby was tasked to pull judicial "double-duty", as it were, being designated as an acting judge on the state circuit court, filling in for an incapacitated judge Joseph Glasgow. Following Glasgow's death in 1942 Crosby was appointed to fill his vacant seat, and in 1944 was elected to a full eight-year term of his own. Crosby's judgeship saw him as judge of Virginia's 18th circuit, comprising the counties of Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, and the city of Buena Vista.
From the Highland Recorded, January 30, 1942.
By 1947 Floridus Crosby was acknowledged as "judge of one of the most exciting circuits in the state", as well as a "man of the highest integrity, with sound knowledge of the law." This sterling character assessment would see him boosted as a potential candidate for the state supreme court of appeals that year, with substantial praise coming from his contemporaries throughout the 18th circuit. With the death of state chief justice Henry W. Holt in recent weeks, many thought Crosby would be a superb replacement, stating:
"No more fitting appointment to the State Court of Appeals could be made by Governor Tuck than that of Jude Floridus S. Crosby of the 18th judicial circuit...Unless the state is going to depart entirely from the custom of keeping the court well balanced between the major geographical divisions, the vacancy caused by the death of Chief Justice Holt should unquestionably go to a Valley man, and Judge Crosby is the most eminently qualified man available."Ultimately, Crosby would be passed over for a spot on the state supreme court, the Holt vacancy eventually being filled by Judge Edward Wren Hudgins (1882-1958). Despite this turn of events, Crosby would win a second eight-year term as circuit court judge in 1952 and served until ill health necessitated his retirement in February 1955. Crosby's final years were spent in Staunton, where he died at age 64 on June 18, 1957. Distinguished in the local Y.M.CA and Kiwanis Club chapters, as well as the Staunton masonic lodge, Floridus Crosby was survived by his wife Martha. Following her death in 1975, she was interred alongside her husband at the Thornrose Cemetery in Staunton.
From the Staunton News Leader, January 18, 1955.