Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Southeast D.C. was filled with elected officials, community leaders and a diverse quilt of political icons on Feb. 18 paying their final respects to former Ward 7 D.C. Council Member H.R. Crawford.

D.C. Officials, residents and Crawford’s family gathered at Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Southeast D.C. to pay homage to the late politician. (Photo by Hamil Harris)

Born Hazle Reid Crawford in Winston Salem, N.C. on Jan. 18, 1939, Crawford adopted the nickname H.R. after his parents brought him to Washington D.C. when he was only three. The son of a housekeeper and a father who worked for the government and operated a boarding house, Crawford developed a passion for real estate, public service, fancy cars and palatial homes.

Crawford was elected to the D.C. Council in 1980 and though defeated in 1992, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said, during the service, that Crawford never stop working for the people. “He relished the role of being a former council member. He reminded me of Marion Barry.”

D.C. Officials, residents and Crawford’s family gathered at Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Southeast D.C. to pay homage to the late politician. Photo by Hamil Harris

Four pews at Saint Francis Xavier were filled with current and former members of the D.C. Council. Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) spoke about getting frequent calls from Crawford to help other residents in the city. “It was never for himself but for others,” he said.

The Rev. Mary E. Ivey, chair of Access Housing, a nonprofit organization that provides housing, counseling, and rehabilitative services to homeless veterans, served as the moderator of the funeral. She said Crawford founded the organization after he found homeless people 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,” she said.

At a time when the District is polarized along racial and political lines, Crawford’s life is a testimony to things long gone. Before being elected to the council, he was appointed to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as an assistant secretary by President Richard Nixon.

Crawford graduated from Cardozo High School in 1957. He 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.

Former Gallaudet University President I. King Jordan forged a close bond with Crawford after both men were stationed at the Pentagon in the 1950s. “I was in the Navy and he was in the Air Force. I was an E4 and he was an E5,” Jordan said. “The creases in his pants were so sharp it could cut paper.”

Crawford went from the military to college to a career in public service that included serving as the chair for the Metropolitan Council of Governments and the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority. His passion, however, was providing affordable housing for those on the margins of life especially veterans.

Brian Hawkins, director of the VA Medical Center of D.C., spoke about how Crawford loved veterans and he was impatient when veterans were mistreated. He said one day he got a call from Crawford that began with “You are killing veterans . . .”

In addition to being the principle of Edgewood Management and other real estate ventures, Crawford was also a developer. D.C. Council member Vincent Gray (D- Ward 7) said he was on the phone with Crawford, recently, discussing the completion of several real estate ventures.

As she stood on the steps of the church, former Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly said, “He was smart, strategic, and he knew how to make things happen and we knew we had to close ranks and follow him.”

Christine Brooks, who worked at the D.C. Department of Human Service during the Crawford years called him one of the last “godfathers,” in the city who tried to help people. “He was like Marion Barry,” she said.