Marion Crawford

Age 78: Pioneering African-American Baltimore policewoman was director of the city's Officer Friendly program.

May 21, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN REPORTER

Sgt. Marian L. Crawford, a pioneering African-American Baltimore policewoman who later rose to head the department's Officer Friendly program, died of Alzheimer's disease Friday at the Augsburg Lutheran Home and Village. She was 78.Marian Louise Wilson was born in Danville, Va., the daughter of a Southern Railway brakeman and a homemaker. After graduating from John M. Langston High School in Danville in 1947, she enrolled at Morgan State University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in physical education.

She returned to Danville and taught physical education for Pittsylvania County public schools until being hired by the Baltimore Police Department in 1955.

When Sergeant Crawford joined the department, she was the city's third African-American policewoman to join the force and was assigned to the old Pine Street Station.

FOR THE RECORD - An obituary published for Marian L. Crawford, a retired Baltimore police officer, incorrectly spelled her name in a headline. She is also survived by two great-grandchildren. The Sun regrets the errors.

She began her career as a patrol officer in the Southwestern District during a time when "there weren't uniforms for female officers," she told The Evening Sun in a 1984 interview. Policewomen were not allowed to carry weapons and were not issued uniforms. They dressed in their regular street clothes.

"She was a real pioneer. When she started, she wore Joan Crawford-type suits, white gloves and hats. Uniforms didn't come until later," said city police Sgt. Cecelia Karen Phillips. "She was very beautiful and tall, and with her red hair, could have been a movie star."

On assignments, policewomen were accompanied by their male counterparts.

"The guys were always with us, so most of the time I wasn't too scared, but sometimes you did get nervous," she said in the newspaper interview.

While at the Southwestern District, she performed undercover assignments and worked on the vice squad. She was promoted to sergeant in 1969 and began working with the Community Relations Division's Officer Friendly program in 1972.

She directed five Officer Friendly officers, who visited city grade schools, explaining to children the functions of the Police Department and the role of its officers.

"I like helping people and we can do this through the Officer Friendly program," Sergeant Crawford said in the interview.

Lt. Diane K. Dutton, who worked in the Officer Friendly program in the mid-1980s and took over as program director when Sergeant Crawford retired in 1989, said, "She enjoyed doing things for children in the community and worked tirelessly getting sponsors, and even established a summer program that enabled underprivileged city kids to go to Washington for the day or to the zoo."

At Christmas, she and her co-workers arranged a party for underprivileged children and made sure that each of them left with a new toy.

"Her goal was always to make sure they had an experience they'd never forget," said her daughter, Linda D. Hale of Baltimore.

Lieutenant Dutton added: "She was innovative, and it was a pleasure to work with her. She always encouraged us to move on and was such a role model."

Sergeant Crawford's vast network of contacts included community association and educational leaders throughout the city.

"She knew everyone and idolized her kids," Sergeant Phillips said.

Ambrose G. Warlock, a retired city policeman, worked under Sergeant Crawford in the Officer Friendly program for more than a decade. He said she was universally admired.

"She came in contact with and helped a heck of a lot of people," Mr. Warlock said. "She certainly had no enemies in this world."

Sergeant Phillips praised her for always being a "positive role model" for other female police officers.

"She stressed sophistication, professionalism and looking good in your uniform," she said.

Retired city police Sgt. Michaal P. Dunn, a veteran of the Officer Friendly program, recalled her "honesty, fairness and willingness to listen to suggestions."

During her 34-year career, Sergeant Crawford earned two official commendations and was named The Evening Sun Police Officer of the Year in 1984.

Looking back over her career in 1984, Sergeant Crawford told The Evening Sun, "I didn't think I'd last for six months then. I guess I was wrong."

Sergeant Crawford lived for many years on Koko Lane in West Baltimore before moving to the retirement community about a decade ago.

She was a longtime member of St. Stephen's Lutheran Church, Wilkens Avenue and Courtney Street in Arbutus, where services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

Also surviving are three sisters, Vivian O'Ferrell and Doris E. Wilson, both of Danville, and Kathryn W. Cooper of Camp Springs; a granddaughter; and many nieces and nephews. Her marriage to John O. Crawford ended in divorce.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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