Nation’s First Elected Female Sheriff Crumbley Dies

Katherine M. “Kathy” Crumbley, the nation’s first female to win a competitive election for sheriff and the only woman to serve Belmont County in that capacity, died Sunday. She was 65.

The nation got acquainted with the Bellaire native through her appearances on “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson, “Hee Haw” and “The Mike Douglas Show” following her election in 1976. She held the office of Belmont County sheriff from 1977-81. Prior to taking the department’s top post, she had worked as a deputy in the county.

During her career, Crumbley was know for her strength and ability to physically intervene in criminal cases when necessary.

Published reports indicate she wrestled a man to the ground after he ignored a court order evicting him from his home. Under her administration, the department reportedly investigated everything from drugs to prostitution and gambling.

Following her single term as sheriff, Crumbley worked as a private investigator and bounty hunter. She later served as a fraud investigator/supervisor for the Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services, retiring for medical reasons in 2004.

Following an illness, Crumbley died at Park Health Center in St. Clairsville.

Retired Belmont County Sheriff Tom McCort said Crumbley was a dedicated servant to the people of Belmont County.

“She was the one who started the practice of patrolling all sectors of the county,” McCort noted. “It was something that I did when I became sheriff, but she was the one who started it.”

Mary Graham served as a deputy under Crumbley.

“She was a very competent sheriff and did her job well,” Graham said.

Former Belmont County Prosecutor Frank Pierce said he worked with Crumbley in her capacity as a fraud investigator at the Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services.

“She did an outstanding job as an investigator,” Pierce said.

In addition to her work for the county, the Bellaire High School graduate was a devoted mother and grandmother. She was preceded in death by her husband, James C. “Brutus” Crumbley in 1989. She is survived by her son, Joshua Crumbley, and his wife, Debra; grandson, Jedidiah James Crumbley, and granddaughter, Johanna Surette Crumbley, a brother, a sister and numerous other relatives and friends.

Services for Crumbley will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. John Catholic Church, Bellaire, with burial in Mount Calvary Cemetery, Bellaire.