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Bill E. Cruthirds Sr.

1937 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Bill E. Cruthirds Sr. Obituary
Bill E. Cruthirds, Sr.

Olive Branch, MS

Bill Cruthirds, Sr., passed away unexpectedly Wednesday, May 24, 2017. He was born in Banner, Mississippi, to Frank and Ola Cruthirds on November 19, 1937, and moved to Memphis with his family in 1941. Bill attended Humes High School, graduating in 1955, after which he joined the U.S. Air Force, where he served for four years as a cartographical draftsman in California. He returned to Memphis in 1959 to work for Zeno Yeates Architects.

In 1961, Bill went to work for Holiday Inns of America, where he established and led their in-house interior design department, designing interiors for hotels all over the world. When he left Holiday Inns in 1979, he was head of a department consisting of 32 designers. While still working at Holiday Inns, Bill and his two younger brothers, Bob and Jim Cruthirds, started Specialties, Inc., a wall accessory manufacturing company. In 1970 they founded House of Cruthirds, providing custom millwork for the hospitality industry. In 1971 they moved both businesses to Olive Branch, Mississippi, and merged them into Unicorn International, Inc., which became one of the nation's largest hospitality furnishings, design and engineering companies. In 1992, Bill became a community activist in Olive Branch, running unsuccessfully for mayor in 1993 as well as serving in a number of volunteer positions. He is credited with almost single-handedly preventing the demolition of Olive Branch's historic downtown area, later serving as the first president and executive director of the Olive Branch Old Towne Association. In that capacity he produced a number of special events and programs that boosted business and tourism significantly. Most recently he served in city government as Olive Branch's Community Relations/Tourism Director, and helped design the new city hall as well as a number of the city's signs and monuments. He also established and managed the Olive Branch Museum in city hall and was especially proud of its Veterans' Book of Honor memorial. Bill played amateur football in Memphis from 1966 until 1996, finally retiring at the age of 58. During that time he was the coach and quarterback of the House of Cruthirds team that included his brothers, winning four city championships. In 1983 he founded the Memphis Amateur Football Association, made up of business-sponsored teams from across the city, and served as its president for 12 years. In 1999 he was inducted into the Memphis Amateur Sports Hall of Fame.

Bill is survived by his wife of 51 years, Melvia Nelson Cruthirds; his sons, Bill Cruthirds, Jr. (Sharon), Barrett Cruthirds, Sr. (Penny) and Arty Sykes (Andrea); grandchildren Erica Watkins (Travis), Barrett Cruthirds, Jr. and Katie Sykes; and two great-grandchildren, Anslee and Kendall Watkins. He is also survived by his brothers, Bob Cruthirds and Jim Cruthirds, and sister, Beverly Cruthirds, and numerous nieces and nephews. Despite determinedly presenting a gruff exterior image, Bill had a heart of gold and was loved and respected by many. He was an artist, writer, inventor, musician, historian, preservationist, philosopher, and visionary. He was truly a Renaissance Man.

Services will be held Tuesday, May 30, at First Baptist Olive Branch, 9155 Highland Street, 38654. Visitation will begin at noon with the service to follow at 2:00 p.m. Burial will be at Blocker Cemetery in Olive Branch. As Bill dearly loved his dogs, most of which were rescues, the family asks that memorials in his name be made to the Tunica Humane Society, Online condolences may be expressed at
Published in The Commercial Appeal from May 26 to May 28, 2017
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