Monday, September 28, 2015

In Memoriam: Bill Crawford (1936-2015)

Rep. Bill Crawford
Friday, Indiana lost a legend, and many lost a friend.

Longtime State Representative Bill Crawford passed away after fighting health problems over the last year.  He was 79 years old.

In many ways, it's hard to believe Crawford is gone.  His influence is still here.

Crawford, as Amos Brown astutely points out, was Indiana's most influential African-American lawmaker, and it's hard to argue against that.  His public life only tells part of the story.

On a spring night in 1968, Crawford gathered with others to listen to Robert F. Kennedy speak.

We know now that gathering in the park on April 4, 1968 was where Kennedy gave one of his most famous speeches.  It was his on-the-spot eulogy of Dr. Martin Luther King, who had been gunned down earlier that day. While riots erupted across the country, Kennedy's poignant speech that preached unity instead of division and love through loss kept Indianapolis peaceful that evening.

It also, according to Brown, inspired Crawford to serve.

Serve he did.  Elected to the Indiana House in 1972, Crawford would rise through the ranks and become one of Indiana's most powerful politicians until his retirement in 2012.  Through almost his entire career in the House, he was on the Ways and Means Committee eventually becoming the Chairman or the Ranking Member depending on what party was in power.  That committee determines where the state spends its money.

Beyond that work, Crawford was a voice for the voiceless.  He was a fighter for those without boxing gloves.  He represented more than just his physical constituency.

On Friday, he was called to the big General Assembly in the sky.  My deepest condolences to his wife, Bernice, and his family and many friends.

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