Title: Commissioner Bradford M. Crittenden Collection
Collection number: MS 238
Crittenden, Bradford M.
Extent: 4 boxes
University of the Pacific. Library. Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
The Crittenden Collection was given to Holt-Atherton Special Collections in 1988 by the
Commissioner's children, Thomas Crittenden and Barbara Crittenden Phillips.
Collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], Commissioner Bradford M. Crittenden Collection, MS 238,
Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library
Bradford MacChesney Crittenden was born in San Jose, California on May 9, 1912. His
father, later State Senator Bradford S. Crittenden (1876-1952), was an attorney. His
mother, Edith MacChesney Crittenden (1876 -1952), a former music instructor at the
College of the Pacific, was related to the late George Kasson, a major landholder in the
The family moved to Tracy in 1915, where Crittenden attended school until his father
moved the family to Stockton upon his election to the State Assembly in 1920. Crittenden
completed his education in the latter city, graduating from Stockton High School in 1930.
Crittenden received a B.A. from the College of the Pacific in 1934. He then pursued
graduate study at the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, from which institution he
received a J. D. Degree.
Crittenden began law practice with his father's Stockton firm of Crittenden and Hench in
1936. He became a member of the bar of the State Supreme Court and the U. S. Supreme
Court. He joined the staff of the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office in 1949,
serving there, until 1959 both as an Assistant District Attorney and as District
Attorney. In this position, Crittenden was particularly interested in the prosecution of
narcotics cases. The Collection contains some material on these and other litigations and
business of the District Attorney's office during Crittenden's tenure there.
In 1959, Crittenden was appointed Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol by
newly-elected Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown. Crittenden held this office until 1967.
During his term in office, California was beset by a period of social unrest that
climaxed in the Watts Riots of August, 1965 and the University of California Vietnam Day
Demonstrations of October, 1965. Crittenden, as head of the State's largest law
enforcement agency, was deeply involved in the enforcement response to these events. The
Collection contains substantial material relating to the election year 1966,
conservatives attacked the CHP as corrupt, noting that the agency had purchased all of
its vehicles from the same Sacramento auto dealership for several years. The CHP reaction
to these charges is well-documented in Crittenden's papers. The Commissioner resigned on
Ronald Reagan's assumption of the Governorship in January, 1967.
In July of that same year, Crittenden assumed the Associate Directorship of the National
Highway Safety Bureau's Traffic Safety Programs in Washington D.C. He held this position
until 1970 when he became Regional Advisor for the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, Region IX, with Headquarters in San Francisco. Crittenden held this post
until he retired to Stockton in 1978. The Collection contains some material from this
period. Of greatest interest are probably Crittenden's speeches based upon his
experiences as California Highway Patrol Commissioner.
Crittenden owned several San Joaquin Valley farms. The collection contains substantial
material pertaining to land leasing, farm operations, and related matters, between the
years 1953 and 1970.
Following his retirement, Crittenden returned to Stockton, where he became active in the
Concerned Citizens' Committee of San Joaquin County. In 1979, this group launched a drive
to initiate a constitutional convention that would provide the State with "tougher" law
enforcement provisions and a "tougher" judiciary.
Commissioner Crittenden married twice. His first wife, Virginia Cookingham, whom he
married in 1934, died in 1973. They had two children, a son, Thomas, and a daughter,
Barbara. Crittenden married Helen Harney of Stockton in 1974. He died January 29, 1982.