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William Herbert Crook, former VISTA director

Dr. William Herbert Crook, former director of Volunteers in Service to America, has died at age 72.

Dr. Crook, a former ambassador to Australia, died Wednesday at his home after a long illness. His wife, Eleanor Butt Crook, said he had undergone bypass surgery and suffered complications.

A minister and educator, he was chosen by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 to open an Austin branch of the Office of Economic Opportunity to oversee national service programs in five states.

Two years later, Johnson appointed him national director of VISTA, a program that places volunteers in community agencies to fight problems caused by urban and rural poverty.

He served as VISTA director until 1968, when he was appointed ambassador to Australia.

"He never touched a responsibility that didn't become a devotion," said television journalist Bill Moyers.

In 1949, he graduated from Baylor University and went on to earn a doctorate in theology from Southwestern Seminary.

In 1960, he was pastor of First Baptist Church of Nacogdoches when he resigned to make an unsuccessful bid for Congress, beginning his public service career.