'I've enjoyed every minute of it'

J.B. McCrorey was re-elected mayor of Richburg on Tuesday. He is shown Wednesday with his "MAYOR 1" license plate in the parking lot of Richburg Town Hall.
J.B. McCrorey was re-elected mayor of Richburg on Tuesday. He is shown Wednesday with his "MAYOR 1" license plate in the parking lot of Richburg Town Hall.

RICHBURG -- Richburg voters put John Boyd McCrorey back in office this week.

For the 21st time.

The 90-year-old has served as mayor of the tiny Chester County town of 335 people since 1967. He was re-elected Tuesday with 36 votes, continuing the tenure believed to be the longest of any mayor in the state.

"I've been fussed at, cussed and shot at, too, in these 40-something years," McCrorey said with a chuckle. "But I've enjoyed every minute of it."

The typically quiet nonagenarian drives a blue Buick LeSabre with a "MAYOR 1" license plate to and from the same white house he's lived in since 1947. He and his high school sweetheart, Juanita, have been married since 1941.

McCrorey's been a soldier, store manager, councilman, school board chairman, husband and father. He's also shepherded this small town while Interstate 77 and industry grew up around it.

Born on a farm about a mile outside of Richburg, McCrorey was the fourth of his parents' six children. His father worked on roads for the state highway department, while his mother took care of their home.

McCrorey grew up amid vegetable gardens, mules and horses.

"That was before tractors were so common," he said.

After graduating from Richburg High School, he was offered a job managing a local general store. He worked 12 hours or more a day, six days a week, providing farmers the tools, food and gasoline they needed.

During World War II, the young husband was drafted and sent to the South Pacific island of Saipan, where he served as a U.S. Army aircraft gunner. He saw his wife just once in four years when she traveled to Virginia to see him at basic training.

When McCrorey came home from the war, he went back to managing a store and, like many servicemen, started a family.

In 1967, Richburg Mayor Jacob "J.A." Clawson died during his 31st year in office. McCrorey had already served three years as a town councilman and people encouraged him to run for mayor. He never imagined that election would be the beginning of a 40-year run.

"I figured I could help this area and the town," McCrorey said. "I thought I'd serve my two years and that might be it. But people have been good to me, and I've tried to be good to them."

Every two years, the chatter has been the same.

"You've got to run," residents tell him. "You've got to stay with us."

During his decades in office, McCrorey has helped the town get sewer service. He saw the arrival of Interstate 77 and, in turn, the clusters of industry that began popping up near Richburg.

Although the town kept putting him back in office, everyone hasn't always agreed with him.

"You can't please everybody," he said. "But I tried to do the best I can to please as many as I can."

People have shown just how content they've been. In all his elections, McCrorey has only been challenged three times, and the race has never been close.

"He tries to please," Juanita McCrorey said of her husband. Through all the races, she has supported her husband's decision to keep running.

"I think he's enjoyed it," she said. "And I think he's done his part."

Another longtime Richburg leader, Barnette Nichols, was elected to the council in 1964 and has served with McCrorey since. He was also re-elected Tuesday.

A native of York County, Nichols married a Richburg resident in 1951 and has been in the town ever since. He once attributed his and the mayor's success to residents' confidence that leaders will do what's best for the town.

"The meetings are short," he told The Herald in 2005. "We get our business done, and we go on home. Seldom do we have complaints about anything. The people leave it in our hands. I call that being satisfied."

Like their father, McCrorey's children also have a penchant for extended service, said daughter Patricia Hensley.

"He worked a long time, and so did I," said Hensley, who worked in education for 38 years, 27 of them at Lewisville Elementary School.

Hensley now lives across the street from her family in the town where she says people trust and respect her father.

"I think that's why he's still there for the 21rst time around," she said.

At the heart of Richburg sits 151 N. Main St., a small white house with red geraniums and a tidy lawn that John Boyd McCrorey still mows himself.

It's the same house people have called for years to congratulate McCrorey on winning another term in office, including the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, who became the longest-serving senator in history.

And it's the same house where the inevitable question has come up 21 times and might again in 2009: Will he run again?

"If I'm feeling all right and everything goes well," he said, "I'll run again."

For more news and notes from Chester County, read Charles Perry's Chester County Blog at