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Thursday, August 12, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Ernest Crane Represented The Auburn Area In Olympia

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Ernest "Ernie" Crane, an affable Auburn attorney who served four terms as a state representative from the 31st Legislative District, wasn't out to create waves or a name for himself.

"He was a generalist, a team player who just loved being part of the process," said his daughter, Linda Crane Nelson of Seattle. "He was on the Judiciary Committee and involved in probate reform, but mainly he was involved in signing up on a lot of bills sponsored by others.

"He was a loyal Democrat, so he also was in favor of keeping the Spafford murals."

Michael Spafford's murals, "The Twelve Labors of Hercules," commissioned by the state for $92,000 and mounted in the House, were criticized by conservatives who found them obscene. What began as a question of taste escalated into a 12-year battle between liberals and conservatives, who got the murals removed in 1993.

Mr. Crane died Monday (Aug. 9) of prostate cancer. He was 77.

"I was saddened to hear of Representative Crane's passing," said state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, in a written note. "He was a caring individual who worked hard in representing the 31st Legislative District."

Born in Guthrie Center, Iowa, Mr. Crane earned a political-science degree at the University of Iowa. He served in the Army in Europe during World War II, earning a Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1949 and was an intelligence agent in the Korean War.

Mr. Crane practiced law in Washington for 50 years, 35 of them as what he called "a country lawyer" in Auburn. A partner in the Johnson & Crane law firm, he dressed in easy-care slacks and dress shoes, and liked reading, painting and spending time with his family.

"He handled divorces, wills, probates and land transfers," said Nelson. "He was very accessible . . . he helped people and was humble about it."

His one big case, she said, was a civil action "by a very large man" against a foreign car maker. The client claimed he had suffered unusual injuries in an accident because the car he drove was unusually confining. Mr. Crane lost the case but thoroughly enjoyed working on it.

In 1982 he was elected to represent the new 31st Legislative District of south Kent, Auburn, the Enumclaw plateau and parts of north Pierce County. He served in Olympia from 1983 to 1991.

He was a past president of South King County Bar Association.

Also surviving are his wife of 40 years, Susan Crane, and his sons Franklin and Marcus Crane, all of Auburn; sisters, Virginia Hoffman and Margaret Ruff of Green Valley, Ariz.; and two grandchildren. There will be a private reception Sunday at the family home. Formal services are scheduled for Aug. 27 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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