Numerous District icons and people on the margins of life paid their final respects Saturday to former Ward 7 Council member H.R. Crawford at the Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Southeast.
Crawford, who died Feb. 10 at 78, moved to D.C from North Carolina, where he grew up in his father’s rooming house and stoked a lifelong passion to help those struggling to make ends meet.
Rev Mary E. Ivey, chair of the Access Housing, reflected on how Crawford opened a homeless shelter after he found some sleeping and living under a bridge in Georgetown.
“He had a heart of love for all people at a certain level of life and those trying to find their way,” Ivey said.
At a time when the country is so racially polarized, Crawford’s “Celebration of Life” was a welcome respite in honor of man who danced on both sides of the political aisle.
Gallaudet University President I. King Jordan forged a close bond with Crawford after both enlisted men were stationed at the Pentagon in the 1950s.
“I was in the Navy and he was in the Air Force,” Jordan said. “I was an E4 and he was an E5. The creases in his pants were so sharp it could cut paper.”
Crawford, who graduated from Cardozo High School in 1957, served in the Air Force from 1957 to 1965. He attended the D.C. Teachers college, Howard University, Chicago State University and American University, where in 1968 he became the first person of color to obtain a certificate as a Certified Property Manager.
Crawford soon embarked on a career in public service that included a turn as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Richard Nixon, a term on the D.C. Council from 1980 to 1992 and serving as chair of the Metropolitan Council of Governments and the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority.
Brian Hawkins, director of the VA Medical Center of Washington, D.C., talked about how Crawford loved veterans and was impatient when veterans were mistreated.
He reminisced about a call he received from Crawford that began, “You are killing veterans…”
In addition to being the principal in Elwood Management and other real estate ventures, Crawford was a developer. D.C. Council member Vincent Gray weeks before he died Crawford was on the phone asking him to complete several projects.
In 1985, he created Access Housing Inc., the Southeast Veterans Service Center and Chesapeake Veterans House in Southeast. He always looked out for and honored veterans through out the year.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and several Council members said that long after Crawford left office, he maintained his ties with the city government to help the District’s poorest residents.
“He relished the role of being a former council member,” Bowser said. “He reminded me of Marion Barry.”
Her sentiments were echoed by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who added during his speech that Crawford was selfless.
“It was never for himself, but for others,” Mendelson said.
That selflessness was evident as homeless veterans joined city luminaries such as former Council members Linda Cropp, Frank Smith and Jim Nathanson for the service.
As she stood on the steps of the church, former Mayor Sharon Pratt called Crawford a class act.
“He was smart, strategic, and he knew how to make things happen and we knew we had to close ranks and follow him,” she said.