Return to Article | Print this Page
The Police News
Trooper of "Sugarland Express" fame dies at 70
IN MEMORIAM - James Kenneth Crone

August 16, 1941 - February 10, 2011
James Kenneth Crone, 69, of Winnie passed away on Thursday, February 10, 2011, at his residence. 
 
He was born August 16, 1941, to the late J. B. and Iva Mallory Crone in Tyler, Texas. Kenneth graduated in 1958 from John Tyler High School then entering the United States Air Force where he served for four years. In 1967, he joined the Texas Department of Public Safety graduating in class C-67 and was stationed in Winnie as a highway patrolman. While working as a highway patrolman, he attended Sam Houston State University where he received his degree in criminal justice. He left the Department of Public Safety in 1978, to spend more time with his family. He ventured into car and insurance sales before becoming chief of security of Big Hill Strategic Petroleum Reserve when it opened in 1983. He was currently employed with Donovan's Industrial Services as a dispatcher.
 
Although his family brought him the most joy, Kenneth could often be found going to Delta Downs, or enjoying a scratch-off and a diet coke. He is most famous for his kidnapping while working as a state trooper on May 2, 1969. The movie "Sugarland Express", directed by Steven Speilberg, was based on his kidnapping. Kenneth played a small role in the movie. Everyone who met Kenneth couldn't help but love him and his witty sense of humor.

The Sugarland Express is a 1974 American drama film starring Goldie Hawn, William Atherton and Michael Sacks was about a husband and wife trying to outrun the law and was based on a true story. The event partially took place in Sugar Land, Texas. Other scenes for the film were filmed in Lone Oak Community, Floresville, Pleasanton, Converse and Del Rio, Texas.

In May 1969, Ila Fae Holiday assisted her husband Robert Dent to escape from the Beauford H. Jester Prison Farm in Texas, because she feared their son would be placed in the care of her mother. During their flight, they overpowered and kidnapped Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Kenneth Crone, holding him hostage in a slow-moving caravan, along with reporters in news vans and helicopters. The Dents and Crone travelled through Port Arthur, Houston, Navasota, and finally Wheelock, Texas. In contrast to the film the events took only several hours.

The Dents brought Crone to the home of Ila Fae's mother, where they encountered numerous officers. An FBI agent and county sheriff shot and killed Robert Dent, and later arrested Ila Fae. Trooper Crone was unharmed. Ila Fae spent five months in a women's correctional facility; she died in 1989. Crone was an advisor on the film and had a small role as a deputy sheriff.

Film characters Lou Jean Poplin and Clovis Michael Poplin were based on the lives of Ila Fae Holiday and Robert Dent.  The character Patrolman Slide was based on Trooper Crone.
 
He is survived by his two sons, Brad Crone and his wife Michelle of Winnie; Rusty Crone and Lisa Salyers of Anahuac; eight grandchildren, Tyler and Tanner Crone, and  Zachary Crone all of Winnie, Alston, Raegen and Russ Crone of Bridge City, Terrin and Keely Salyers of Anahuac; brothers, Bobby Crone and his wife Martha of Tyler, Harold Ray Crone and Pat Crone of Katy; sisters, Norma Jean Alfred and Alice Crone of Tyler; several nieces and nephews and special family friend, Atalya Nir of Israel. Two nephews that made him proud by following in his footsteps to Department of Public Safety were Ed Crone and Gary Alfred. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother, Gerald Crone and granddaughter, Marti Elizabeth Crone.
 
Funeral services were Sunday, February 13, 2011, at Broussard's, 134 W. Buccaneer Drive in Winnie. A gathering of his family and friends was Saturday at Broussard's. A private cremation service was held after the funeral.
 
I lieu of flowers memorial donations may be made to the American Heart Association, P .O. Box 841125, Dallas, Texas 75284-112.