Tom Crawford, the dean of state Capitol journalists who documented Georgia politics over more than three decades, including a weekly column in The Times and other newspapers, has died. He was 67.
Crawford in May announced the end to his journalism career, leading to a steady stream of tributes and visits from politicians, power brokers and fellow reporters who bid him farewell. He died of complications from cancer, his family said Wednesday.
An endearing presence on the airwaves and in the press box, Crawford worked for a string of newspapers in Georgia over a long career as a reporter and editor, chronicling legendary Capitol figures and seismic political events such as the Republican takeover of state government.
And he pioneered a business model in Georgia that delivered news to two distinct audiences: an online subscription serviced geared largely to Gold Dome insiders and a weekly column featuring unvarnished analysis of state politics that was syndicated to mostly smaller and medium-size newspapers.
Crawford was a former editor of The Red & Black, the independent student newspaper in Athens, and later worked for The Marietta Daily Journal, The Montgomery Advertiser and The Atlanta Journal.
After a sojourn into public relations, where he worked as a speechwriter and public relations adviser during the 1980s and 1990s, he created Georgia Report, an innovative offering in what was then a crowded media landscape.
The subscription service instantly made a mark, catering to an underserved audience of lobbyists, lawyers and politicos that offered readers an incisive, detail-oriented window into the inner workings of legislators from his perch under the Gold Dome.
He also aimed for a more general audience with a weekly political column that ran in more than three dozen newspapers across the state, including The Times. Many of those news outlets relied solely on Crawford to inform their readers of the happenings in state government, and he delivered with exacting precision.
Pete McCommons, a longtime friend of Crawford’s and publisher of The Flagpole in Athens, wrote that he had “earned the freedom to tell us exactly what he saw up close in the Capitol, no matter whom he might offend — the governor, the speaker of the House, Georgia Power, Delta.”
“Tom never pulled his punches, and it’s surprising that he didn’t get punched,” he added, “because he worked daily at the Capitol, surrounded by all the people he scrutinized — powerful people who might not like the truths he spoke.”
Crawford is survived by his wife, Lynn, and his stepson, Lindell Sellmansberger. He leaves an unmatched legacy of political reporting in Georgia that future journalists will soon study: He donated his work to the Richard B. Russell Library, where it will be available to the public.