ARLINGTON, Va. — Oliver Ray Crawford, who earned his wings and commission in the fading days of World War II and became a fierce and effective advocate for the Air Force for decades to come, died July 20 in San Antonio. He was 94.
While Crawford did not see combat in World War II, his bonds to aviation and to what would become the U.S. Air Force formed early and were unbreakable.
A lawyer who spent 13 years in the Air Force Reserves, Crawford was a charter member of the Air Force Association. In 1989, he was named the organization’s Man of the Year and went on to serve as AFA president for two years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Following his tenure as president, Crawford served two additional years as chair of the AFA board.
In 1992, the Air Force officially recognized his work by awarding him the Exceptional Service Award. The award highlighted his work on Capitol Hill to gain support for stealth technology, among other efforts.
“Ollie was a larger than life guy who had boundless energy to improve the U.S. Air Force for generations of Airmen who would serve after him,” said Matthew Donovan, acting secretary of the Air Force. “He will forever be remembered by the Air Force, and my deepest condolences to his friends and family.”
While not widely known outside of the Air Force community, the results of Crawford’s work and advocacy are both permanent and visible. Crawford was a driving force in creating the Air Force Memorial Foundation, which ultimately led to the construction of the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
“Ollie was a great American – an aviator, leader and statesman,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “He was truly an original and a pioneer of our time. We send our thoughts and prayers to his family and those who knew him. We will continue doing our part to keep his legacy alive with a strong and ready Air Force.”
Threaded throughout all those years of advocacy was flying. Crawford ultimately accumulated more than 13,000 hours in more than 100 aircraft. Included in that total was a flight in a U-2 when he was 84 years old, making him the oldest person to receive a flight in the high-altitude surveillance plane.