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LSU Law honors the life and legacy of Professor Bill Crawford

Professor Bill Crawford with his family at the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Celebration on March 6, 2020.

Professor Bill Crawford with his family at the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Celebration on March 6, 2020.

The LSU Law family is mourning the passing of William E. “Bill” Crawford, an LSU Law alumnus and professor who taught for 53 years before his retirement on Jan. 1, 2020. Crawford died on Jan. 2, 2021, at the age of 93.

“We are simultaneously saddened by the loss of Professor Crawford and deeply honored that he dedicated more than five decades of his incredible life—right up until just one year ago—to advancing LSU Law and helping so many students achieve their dreams,” said LSU Law Interim Dean Lee Ann Lockridge. “We will be forever grateful for Professor Crawford’s countless contributions to our school and to this state. Those of us still at the Law Center know we are joined by thousands of his former students in honoring his memory along with his family at this difficult time.”

Prior to earning his J.D. in 1955 at LSU Law, where he was editor-in-chief of Louisiana Law Review, Crawford earned his B.A. from LSU in 1951. After law school, Crawford joined the New Orleans law firm of Chaffe, McCall, and was elected to serve as secretary-treasurer of the Louisiana State Bar Association for two terms from 1960 to 1962.

After 10 years with Chaffe, McCall, Crawford was recruited back to his alma mater by Dean Paul M. Hebert and began his tenure at LSU Law in 1966 as assistant dean. He became an associate professor in 1969, professor in 1971, and in 1985 he was awarded the James J. Bailey Professorship in Law. Crawford also served as director of the Law Institute from 1978 to 2018, a 40-year period in which the institute rendered extraordinary service to the Louisiana Legislature and the public.

In 2003, Crawford’s students honored him as Distinguished Professor of the Year, and the Louisiana Bar Foundation bestowed him with the same honor that year. In 2020, he was honored by LSU Law as a Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.

“If I had a single wish to be granted,” Crawford said at the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Celebration on March 6, “it would be to do it all over again.”

Crawford taught his final class at LSU Law on Nov. 20, 2020, and he retired as the longest-serving LSU faculty member in the university’s history. To show their appreciation for his service, LSU Law faculty, staff, and students surprised him at the conclusion of his final class with a special send-off that was filmed by LSU to commemorate the occasion.

Crawford was born in Key West, Florida, on Dec. 15, 1927. He was valedictorian of his Ponchatoula High School class and enrolled at LSU after being drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II. As an undergraduate at LSU, Crawford pursued an English degree through his junior year, at which point he took advantage of an education track that allowed students to simultaneously study law during their senior year. In 1951, he earned his B.A. and an Air Force ROTC commission as Cadet Colonel.

One year into his studies at LSU Law, the military came calling again as the Korean War broke out. He was assigned to be a prosecutor of AWOL violation conflict cases as a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force in Wilmington, Delaware, at the Base JAG Office. After two years, during which he successfully tried 85 cases, Crawford returned to LSU Law and completed his law degree.

He taught Torts, Louisiana Civil Procedure, Products Liability, Security Devices, and Legal Ethics at LSU Law, and he also spent six summers teaching in Greece with the Tulane summer law program. His publications include the translation of the New Code of Civil Procedure in France, Book I in 1978; a special edition of the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure in 1983; a revision of the three-volume Formulary as part of West’s LSA Civil Procedure, Vols. 10, 11, and 12; and Louisiana Civil Law Treatise, Tort Law in 2000. The LSU Law Library and Westlaw list 16 books or chapters that Crawford has authored, along with 25 articles in various legal publications. Westlaw also credits Crawford with 155 citations as a non-law review secondary source.

Crawford lectured regularly as part of the Continuing Legal Education programs of LSU Law since 1971, he was the principal expert witness for the governor’s program of Tort Revision in the 1996 legislative session, and he served as special master to the U.S. District Court in Bankruptcy Litigation.

“He loved teaching and interacting with his students,” reads his obituary. “Above all, he loved his family. He also enjoyed family trips to Pensacola, camping with his sons, tennis, waterskiing, fishing, and hunting.”

Crawford is survived by his wife of 58 years, Sandra Holmes Shuler Crawford, sons William Edward Crawford, Jr. and John Felder Crawford II, (wife Stephanie) and their children Jane-Elsie Joy and Mary Clayton, and grandson, Andrew Douglas Crawford, Jr., as well as many other family members and friends.