On 20 May 1960 Kriewaldt became ill. Although it was initially suspected to be hepatitis, it was stomach cancer. He managed to deal with two final cases at his bedside in Darwin hospital, before his wife and two children accompanied him to Adelaide for an emergency operation. However, on arrival in Adelaide, it was deemed too late to operate and he subsequently died at the Repatriation General Hospital on 12 June 1960.
There was a funeral service at the Flinders Street Lutheran Church officiated by the president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Dr. C.L. Hoopman, after which he was buried at Centennial Park Cemetery in Adelaide on 14 June 1960. One of his last acts, according to Geoffrey Sawer, a recognised scholar and friend of Kriewaldt, was to write a letter requesting that his judgements and legal papers be put to good use.
Unfortunately his intended study leave, planned for the early 1960s when he hoped to further explore his interests in Aboriginal people and the law, never eventuated. However, a collection of writings were published posthumously by G. Sawer.
The event of his death was covered in the newspapers in great detail. After his death the Northern Territory News included a tribute written by his friend, the popular journalist and commentator, Douglas Lockwood. In his tribute, titled “‘Big Feller Judge’ Dies”(a reference to Aboriginal people’s name for Kriewaldt), Lockwood described Kriewaldt as always tempering ‘justice with mercy’, as having, as his military notes had found years before, a ‘deep understanding of human nature’ and as a ‘fearless, fair and good’ judge. The Northern Territory administrator described the death as a ‘deep shock’ and noted that the judge was ‘widely respected’. Many Aboriginal people also mourned his death, a group of Goulburn Island Aboriginal people performed a rare death ceremony to convey him safely to the spirit world. Finally, as the newspaper reported the swearing in of Kriewaldt’s replacement, the focus was on the memory of Kriewaldt.
In a special ceremonial sitting to mark the occasion, the new judge, Justice Gillespie reportedly said that Justice Kriewaldt’s judgements would ‘remain with us as valuable guides for the future.’ To some extent this has turned out to be the case.
Although Kriewaldt’s influence continues, his legacy is contentious. The Australian Law Reform Commission Report on the recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws suggested that Kriewaldt had introduced ‘cultural sensitivity’ to the Northern Territory jurisprudence. However others, such as Ted Egan, have suggested that his reputation was built on a few famous cases and some inaccurate generalisations about Aboriginal people. Both views appear true. Although some of Kriewaldt’s claims now appear rather antiquated, including his assertion that Aboriginal people may have a different brain construction, many of the concerns he expressed about Aboriginal people’s confrontation with the criminal justice system remain unresolved.