George Cranford "Crant" Berry

From the Haleyville Advertiser, March 16, 1954:

Crant Berry Seeking Winston Sheriff Post. Seeking the Republican nomination for sheriff of Winston County, Crant Berry issued the following statement this week. "To the voters of Winston County I earnestly and sincerely ask you for your vote. If given the chance of serving you as sheriff I will do my dead level best to give you the type law enforcement you will be proud of. Since 1945 I have operated the Veterans Welding and Body Shop in Double Springs. I have twice been post commander of the Garrison-Bonds American Legion Post in Double Springs and at present am serving on the Welfare committee. I take great pride in helping with charity drives such as Cancer, March of Dimes, and Red Cross. During World War II, I served our country as an infantry soldier in the European Theatre. I was wounded in France serving with the 45th Division. Now again I would like to have the opportunity of serving you and our county as Sheriff of Winston County."

Born: May 29, 1911 Died: August 30, 1999

Moonshine whiskey was a very important part of Crant Berry's life. As a boy in his teens, he helped his father, John Berry, operate stills and sell it. As a man in his forties and fifties, he hunted and cut down stills. While serving as sheriff of Winston County, he cut down 445 stills in his first term and 225 in his second.

But, before serving his home county as sheriff, he served his country in World War II. He served in France, Italy, and Germany. He retreated through the Black Forest after fighting at the Battle of the Bulge. He served under General Patch and was a Private First Class in the 45th Division of the 157th Infantry. He was a Thunderbird. He received many medals and awards for his service. He was wounded in southern France and was awarded the Purple Heart. He gave his life to God in a foxhole. He was a lifetime member of the American Legion.

After the war, Crant went to school on the GI Bill, received his GED and trained to do auto bodywork. He worked doing car boyd, fender, and welding work before deciding to run for sheriff.

The first time Crant ran, he was defeated. The second time he ran, he was elected after defeating five other candidates without a run-off election.

Whiskey nearly cost Crant his life when a man who was drunk on it cut his throat. After being arrested and put into the sheriff's car, the man pulled out a knife he had concealed and reached around from the back seat and cut Crant's throat, just missing the jugular vein. Crant always said, "Thank God for neckties and starched collars."

Most of the crimes committed during the years Crant was sheriff were whiskey related. Burglary was common, with only three murders. He sent the drunks to Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa to "dry out" and juvenile delinquents to the Birmingham Industrial School for Boys.

As the only Republican sheriff in the state, Crant served two terms from 1955 to 1963. His deputies were: Bill Burns, Pitt Wilson, Kenneth Dodd, and James Dodd. He served as Chief of Police for Double Springs after leaving the sheriff's office.

Then he decided to open a business on the newly created Lewis Smith Lake. He chose a site at Houston and named the place Yellow Creek Docks, which in later years became known as the Yellow Creek Marina. Even there he "sheriffed," making sure everyone obeyed his rules and regulations so everyone was respectable in the family-oriented campground.

Crant was an avid sportsman and many of his trophies, including the 1968 11-point Boone and Crockett buck, are on display there. He was a charter member of the Bankhead Sportsman Club in Double Springs.

Crant was the son of John Calvert Berry and Dovie Roxanne (Davis) Berry. He was the oldest of nine children. His brothers and sisters were Dorothy Kitchens, Freda Rollins, Bernice Kitchens, Ila McDuffa, Vaudie Saine, Desmer Berry, and Murphy Berry. He had one brother to die in infancy.

Crant had four children: Kathryn Gable, Katrina Miles, Kottnie Berry, and Gail Phebus. He had eight grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren.

Crant was a member of the Houston Baptist Church and is buried in the cemetery there. His widow, Nell (Chambers) Berry, and her children, Katrina and Kottnie, have placed for him a beautiful stone, which is truly a monument to his life.

Many people remember George Cranford "Crant" Berry as "the best sheriff this county ever had."

From "Thunder Road" to "Walking Tall"

By: Katrina Berry Miles

November 4, 2000

Born in the Free State of Winston, 1911,
He grew up on a farm.
He always did what he had to do
To protect himself from harm.

He was raised in the family business,
Moonshining is what they called it.
They tended a still deep in the woods;
Papa made it and he hauled it.

Papa got caught for buying sugar;
They almost got him, too.
But years went by and then
He went off to World War II.

Wounded and saved in battle,
He came home a changed man.
To make this world a better place,
He said, "I'll do all that I can."

He became a lawman,
And almost everyone agrees:
He was "the best sheriff we ever had,"
Though he did make a few enemies.

For whiskey became his target,
And he cut down many a still.
No one has done as much since
And no one ever will.

Who is this man I speak of,
This man who's done it all?
Whose life was lived completely
From "Thunder Road" to "Walking Tall?"

He is my father:
George Cranford "Crant" Berry.
Ask if I'm proud of him,
I'll answer, "Yes, very."