Tim Crews, founder, publisher and editor of the Sacramento Valley Mirror in Willows, died on Thursday, Nov. 12., at Shasta Regional Medical Center, in Redding, after failing to recover from a sepsis infection.
Crews was well known in newspapers and legal circles for the courage to go to court to force various government agencies to release information they were withholding, in violation of the California Public Records Act or Freedom of Information Act, or violating California’s Brown Act. He never lost a case.
Crews became recognized nationally and worldwide for not revealing his sources and going to jail in 2000. The case involved charges against a former Undersheriff of Glenn County and a California Highway Patrol officer.
Crews was born on Oct. 10, 1943, to Frank W. and Jeannie Marie Crews, in Aberdeen, Wash. He started his newspaper career as a young teenager, setting up a darkroom in the basement of his home in Olympia, and selling sports photos to the daily paper. After high school, he did a stint in the Marines, and then the Drug Enforcement Agency.
He was a true “traveling man” in his younger years. The papers he worked for included the Fort Morgan Times, Colo. (where he won his first statewide award); Santa Barbara News and Review (where he won an award for wildfire coverage, presented to him by Denny Bungarz, who would later become a longtime friend when they both ended up in Willows; The Daily Olympian; the Paradise Post; the Oroville Mercury Register; and the old Willows Journal. There were others in Texas and Rome, Italy, and he freelanced from the Greek Island of Crete.
He also won other major awards with the Sacramento Valley Mirror from statewide news organizations.
In 1996, the California First Amendment Coalition presented Crews with its First Amendment Beacon Award, and in 2000 the same organization gave him its Shield of Courage Award.
On April 26, 2000, at Hofstra University in New York, Crews was given the Francis Frost Wood Award for Courage in Journalism.
Also in 2000, he was honored with the Bill Farr Freedom of Information Award from the California First Amendment Association and the California Society of Newspaper Editors.
He won the California Press Association Newspaper Executive of the Year Award on Dec. 4, 2009. Senator Sam Aanestad and the California State Senate recognized Mr. Crews with a resolution on Jan. 27, 2010. In 2011, he won the James Madison Freedom of Information, Norwin Yoffie Career Achievement Award. He won many California Newspaper Publishers Association contest awards in various categories of writing and photos.
And the above list does not include the many local awards with which he was honored over the years.
In between the newspaper jobs, he was a steel plant worker, had his own logging company in Washington, taught journalism at Evergreen State College, and worked for The Boeing Co. in Seattle.
Crews is survived by his wife and partner Donna Settle, of Willows, daughter Rebecca Moore, of Dunedin, Florida, niece Lisa Cipolla and nephew David Cipolla, long-time friend and partner Larry Judkins, reporter Doug Ross, artist Toni Esquivel and many other loyal volunteers with the Valley Mirror.
A celebration of life is being planned for a later date due to COVID-19.