The late U.S. Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina, who rose to fame during Watergate, used to say that one of the highest compliments he was paid was when someone from home would say, Sam, you went to Harvard, but youd never know it.
Keith Crisco went to Harvard, too, to the prestigious business school, but in his long public service career he retained a soft-spoken nature, from his service to his home area in Asheboro on the school board and the city council to a term as state commerce secretary. The farmers son was a man of home and family first. His decision to run for Congress from the 2nd District, friends said, was a dream but also a desire to continue service, though at 71 he was past the age at which most people enter politics.
Crisco died from injuries in a fall at his home Monday, just a day before he was to make public the difficult decision to give up the race for the congressional seat. When Crisco, a Democrat, got in the race, he did all the things a candidate is supposed to do by lining up lots of support from the Democratic establishment. But his opponent was Clay Aiken, the American Idol runner-up, a native North Carolinian who proved to be formidable and well-informed. He bested Crisco, barely, in the primary. Crisco was intending to pass on a runoff Tuesday.
Modest on the campaign trail, Crisco would downplay his success with his company, Asheboro Elastics, telling people he helped hold up their underwear. He made a lot of friends in the campaign and all his life. He was a genuine, sincere person who did not forget where he came from and knew that it was from where many North Carolinians came as well. The state is richer for his contributions and poorer for his unexpected death. Keith Crisco did his part for the people.