Former State Representative Bill Crawford, who served 40 years in the Indiana General Assembly, died today.

Indiana House Democrats issued the following release…

Former Indiana State Representative William A. (Bill) Crawford died today after waging a heroic battle with a recent illness, his family announced. He was 79.

With his 40 years as an Indiana State Legislator, Bill Crawford built a legislative record and legacy that made him the most influential African-American elected official in Indiana’s history. 

In a statement, Crawford’s wife Bernice and children said, “To the end, Bill faced death with dignity and courage. He fought the good fight in sickness as he did in health, and throughout his long career as a public servant. Bill will be remembered here in Indianapolis, throughout the entire state of Indiana and this nation as a champion for the poor and disadvantaged.

“Please be in prayer for us during this challenging time,” she said.

In his career as a legislator, Bill Crawford stood up and fought for legislation that helped working men and women, children, and the elderly. He fought for civil and human rights equality.

Born in Indianapolis, January 28, 1936, this Lockefield Gardens resident served in the US Navy, followed by employment at the Post Office.

Crawford worked closely with legendary Indianapolis minister and activist the Rev. Andrew Brown’s efforts to fight for equality for Blacks in the city.

Bill was present on that fateful night, April 4, 1968, and heard Sen. Robert Kennedy’s words at 17th and Broadway announcing the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Being there that night and hearing those words helped shape Crawford’s career as a community activist and servant.

Crawford was one of the cadre of young Black men and women who helped create and shape Indiana Black Expo, serving as a longtime Board member and Board officer.

Crawford got involved in public service when then-State Representative (later Congresswoman) Julia Carson convinced Crawford to run for the legislature and he represented inner city and later inner and outer city Indianapolis neighborhoods from 1972-2012.

During that time, he left an impressive legislative legacy and body of work. When he retired, he had become the longest-serving African-American state lawmaker in Indiana history.

When Bill took office in 1973, he was assigned to the powerful Ways and Means Committee. In time, he rose to chair the committee, which decides how the state spends its money. In that position, he worked to ensure that state spending was just and that the underserved were not overlooked. This was a posture Bill Crawford took with all the legislation he authored or co-sponsored, from affordable housing to neighborhood development to criminal justice.

Whether it was Concerned Clergy, Black Expo, Circle City Classic, or Kennedy/King Park, Bill Crawford was intimately involved in every major initiative and effort in Indianapolis’ Black community over a 45-year period.  Crawford also strongly supported major Indianapolis initiatives from the Hoosier/RCA Dome to Circle Centre Mall, and IUPUI’s growth. But he insisted that those projects include strong goals and efforts to include minority-and women-owned businesses working on those projects.  Crawford was a passionate defender of school integration while also insisting on improving the quality of education and funding for public schools and ensuring cultural and racial diversity in Indianapolis schools and much more.

Throughout his public service, Bill Crawford retained his common touch, devoted to and serving the people in the streets.  While being able to negotiate to find common ground with the people in the suites. All to benefit the community he served and loved.

Bill Crawford was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the nation’s first Voter ID law here in Indiana, saying the law was a thinly veiled attempt to disenfranchise poor, minority and Democratic voters. The lawsuit went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against Crawford and other plaintiffs. But the issues that Crawford brought up in that initial lawsuit against voter ID have been used by subsequent courts to limit or curb the use of Voter ID laws in other states.

Bill Crawford was employed by Ivy Tech Community College for nearly 25 years, retiring in 2011 as Manager of Outreach Programs.  His career there helped shape and mold Ivy Tech into a true statewide community college system.  Bill Crawford’s deep devotion to diversity and to opening the doors of education to non-traditional students has helped Ivy Tech have the largest enrollment of African-Americans and other minorities of any public university or college in Indiana.

Funeral arrangements are pending. In addition to prayers, the family asks for respect of its privacy at this challenging time.


Statehouse Leadership also offered their condolences.

House Speaker Brian Bosma

  • “Bill Crawford was a deeply respected colleague in the Indiana House of Representatives. A consummate gentleman and constant advocate for Central Indiana, I had the honor to serve alongside Bill for many years. As a former Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the longest-serving African-American legislator in our state’s history, Bill leaves behind a sterling legacy of selfless public service. He will be truly missed.”

Senate President Pro Tempore David Long

  • “I had the honor of working with Bill Crawford for a number of years, particularly during his service as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Bill was an honorable man, and a true fighter for his constituents and the issues he passionately believed in. We will all miss him.”