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Craig recalled as 'lawyer's lawyer,' kingmaker

By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
New Hampshire Union Leader

May 19. 2018 8:16PM




WILLIAM H. CRAIG

MANCHESTER — William H. Craig was remembered by legal and political leaders alike as a “lawyer’s lawyer” who played a major role in shaping Democratic Party politics for generations and had political admirers in the highest of places.

Craig, the uncle of Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and father of former House Democratic Leader and state Labor Commissioner Jim Craig, died on Friday.

In a statement, Mayor Craig said her uncle left a lasting impression on all those he touched over a long and successful career.

“Bill was a towering figure in New Hampshire’s political and legal communities for many decades,” Mayor Craig said.

“He was an inspiration to our family. Bill didn’t suffer fools, but had a wonderful sense of humor and was extremely generous. He left a wonderful legacy and will be missed by many.”

Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley was the first to publicly confirm the news on social media early Friday evening.

“Bill was one of New Hampshire’s most respected lawyers and a leading Democrat,” Buckley said.

The elder Craig’s career in public service included serving many terms in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, including a stint as the House minority leader.

He was a Buckley predecessor as chairman of the state party in the 1960s and was widely viewed as a leading adviser during candidate John F. Kennedy’s successful run for President in 1960.

After Kennedy’s election, Craig became U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire, serving from 1961-63.

A 1949 graduate of St. Anselm College, Craig got his law degree from Boston College and practiced in both state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962.

Craig specialized in healthcare and subsidized-housing law for years, representing Catholic Medical Center and the former Optima Health as well as other not-for-profit organizations.

“As an alderman I worked with Bill for 20 years,” said former Alderman David Wihby, a longtime Republican political activist. “He always put what was best for the city before anything else. He was not only a great attorney but a great person.”

Former State Sen. and Rep. Jim Splaine said the elder Craig, like his son, Jim, had an easy, approachable way about him.

“Like Jim, Bill always made you feel welcome when you talked with him, a friend you enjoyed being with every time,” Splaine recalled.

Former State GOP Chairman Steve Duprey, a well-known Concord developer, called Craig a “great man” whom he worked with on real estate for 30 years.

And former U.S. Attorney Tom Colantuono, a conservative Republican, said he was moved when Craig attended his swearing in as the top federal prosecutor in 2002.

Manchester lawyer Brad Cook remarked in a 2013 commentary that the elder Craig continued helping clients long after many of his peers had retired.

“Still active, Craig’s automobile can be spotted outside of his office on North Elm Street in Manchester from early morning to late afternoon, most work days,” Cook wrote. “Those who have gotten to know Bill Craig as a fellow attorney have great affection for him personally, and respect for him professionally.”

Barbara Hagan, a former conservative Republican state legislator and longtime anti-abortion activist, posted on Facebook her kind wishes to the family.

“This is very sad news; My sincere sympathy,” she posted.

Craig’s son, Jim, ran unsuccessfully for Congress, losing the 2006 Democratic primary to eventual U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.

And his grandson, Will Craig, continued in his own public service career as a former top aide to ex-Gov. Maggie Hassan and economic development director for the city of Manchester before joining Eversource Energy as a community relations specialist.

klandrigan@unionleader.com


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