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Saigon Zoo

Hugh E. Crooks Jr. was the first child born to Hugh E Crooks and Vivian Crooks in Chicago Illinois. His parents had met at during a USO dance in Scott’s Field, Illinois, at the end of World War II when his father was a Corporal in the U.S. Army Air Corps. After being discharged and returning to Chicago, his father enrolled in the Chicago Baptist Institute and became an ordained Minister.

In this environment, Hugh would learn many lessons from his father such as the meaning of “God and Country”. Being raised as a “PK” (Preacher’s Kid) gave Hugh a unique opportunity to learn such things as how meetings are conducted (always according to Robert’s Rules of Order), that veterans should be revered, and family is always important.

The family moved to Los Angeles, California, where they settled into Northeast Los Angeles (El Sereno) and Hugh went to Woodrow Wilson High School where he had a major of College Preparatory, Mathematics. During his time at Wilson he participated 3 years in the newly formed JROTC unit attaining the rank of Cadet Captain. His Cadet Company won city-wide awards, and he also lettered in Football. After High School, Hugh enrolled into East Los Angeles College, left school after a year and was drafted into the US Army.

He was sent to Basic Training at Fort Ord, California in 1967 where he learned that using the right motivational techniques can change anyone’s behavior, a lesson that would stay with him for the rest of his life. After graduation, he was transferred to Fort Polk, Louisiana (Tigerland), for Advanced Individual Training to be an Infantryman. After graduation Hugh was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division, the 3rd Battalion of the 39th Regiment, Company A, which was located in an abandoned French Fort in the Mekong Delta of the Republic of Vietnam. He served as Rifleman, Machine Gunner, Radio Operator (RTO) and Squad Leader. As a Squad leader he learned many valuable lessons such as supervising subordinates in the field, and the real meaning of comradeship and loyalty.

After spending 13 months in Vietnam, he was sent back to Oakland, California and discharged. Hugh immediately started working with Los Angeles County as a Booking Clerk in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, after 2 years he was promoted to be an Officer of the Los Angeles County Safety Police, Protective Services Division. He was then promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and worked his way to Division Chief. At that time, there were five (5) different Divisions of Safety Police within the County of Los Angeles and each of these Chiefs came together to form the Executive Committee for the Los Angeles Safety Police. Hugh became the Chairman and was the Senior Chief on the Committee. He was responsible for the creation of their own Police Academy program through Rio Hondo College, where he sat on the Executive Committee of the Police Academy with other Police Chiefs.

Hugh helped to create an environment of added professionalism which met the Police Officer Standards and Training’s (POST) criteria. During his tenure as Chief he also initiated a Reserve Unit and when his Division was consolidated he advanced to the position of Head of Administrative and Facilities Services at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. At the Museum of Natural History he was responsible for personnel and the majority of the operational units within the museum, such as security, maintenance, photography, and custodial.

In 2000 Hugh transferred to the Los Angeles County Department of Register-Recorder/County Clerk where he held the position of Employee Relations Manager and finally as Operations Manager of the Department’s Human Resources Division, which he held until he retired from Los Angeles County in March 2005 after 38 years of Service. It was during his employment with Los Angeles County that Hugh utilized every opportunity to advance his education. He received an Associates of Arts Degree from East Los Angeles College, and a Bachelor’s Degree from California State University at Dominguez Hills, besides taking numerous classes to further his career.

hughandyokoHugh’s greatest supporter is his wife Yoko and together they have two sons, the youngest is on active duty with the U.S. Navy; two daughters, one is a graduate of California State University at Fullerton, and the other is a Doctor of Clinical Psychology; and eight grandchildren.

During the California Convention of the American Legion on June 2011 he was elected as Commander of the State of California, which he held until 2012.

In 2013, he was appointed Chaplain for the American Legion, Department of California. Later that year, he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown, and approved by the State Senate, to the California Veterans Board of the California Department of Veterans Affairs. The Board’s responsibility being to advise the Governor, Legislature and CDVA on what the veterans within California need, in addition the Board is charged with listening to appeals of any veterans who feels that they have not been given a California benefit that they were entitled to receive. He currently holds the position of Vice-Chair on the Board.

In 2014, Hugh again campaigned for another office within the American Legion, that of National Executive Committeeman. This position would represent the members of the American Legion within California at the National Board level, and he would be designated as a National Officer. He won that election, and held that position until September 2016. He has the designation of being the first African- American to ever hold that position from California.

During the California State Convention in 2016, he was appointed as the California Chairman for the 100 year Anniversary of the American Legion, which will occur in 2019. In this position he will be responsible for coordinating the state’s efforts to celebrate and share the diverse histories of its Posts and Districts. In March of 2017, Hugh was reappointed to the California Veterans Board by the Governor, and is awaiting confirmation from the State Senate. He continues to be very active in the American Legion and currently holds the following positions: Los Angeles Sheriff’s Star Post 309: Chaplain and Judge Advocate; Los Angeles District 17: Judge Advocate; Los Angeles County Council: Judge Advocate; Department of California: member of the Finance Commission and Senior Advisor to Department Commander.

In addition for the past 5 years, he has been a guest lecturer for graduate students seeking their Masters Degree in Social Work (MSW) on veterans and their needs through California State University at Northridge’s class on Trauma. He tries to insure that these future therapists are aware of veteran’s needs and a brief history of the military. He continues to be involved in Veterans Affairs, and has been asked to be the keynote speaker at three separate naturalization ceremonies; and the main Speaker during Memorial Days and Veterans Days for the following entities: City of Monterey Park, City of Huntington Beach, City of Inglewood, City of Lakewood, and City of Carson, and the City of Santa Ana. One of the highlights of his speaking tours was when he was asked to be the Keynote speaker at the Veterans Graduation at California State University Northridge.

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