Growing up as an only child in Griffin, Charles Crawford made a vow to himself that when he got married, he would have a big family. And he fulfilled that promise with his wife Miriam by raising 8 children. Family was so important to him, that no matter where they lived during a career that led him all over the globe, he made sure they visited their Georgia kin often.
Mr. Crawford was one of the early pioneers of military aviation. He was called the father of the Black Hawk helicopter, but also worked on both the Cobra and Apache programs.
After receiving a master's degree from Georgia Tech in aeronautical engineering in 1954, he joined the Air Force, where he worked as a flight test engineer at Edwards Air Force Base. In 1966, he began working as a civilian for Army Aviation Systems in St. Louis, where he remained for over 20 years. He came home in 1988 to work for Georgia Tech.
Charles Cleveland Crawford, Jr. of Dunwoody, died Tuesday at St. Joseph's Hospital after an extended illness. He was 81. Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church in Sandy Springs, followed immediately by a funeral mass. H.M. Patterson & Son at Oglethorpe Hill is in charge of arrangements.
Mr. Crawford traveled extensively for aerospace projects around the world, working in Iran, Russia and Japan, among other places. Through these trips, he amassed many frequent flyer miles that he and Miriam used to take every one of their children and their spouses, one at a time, to Europe on vacation.
His son Matt Crawford, of St. Louis, said these were incredible trips they will always remember. He also recalled how his dad loved to attend the air shows in London and Paris to keep up with the latest aviation products and developments.
His son Joe Crawford, also of St. Louis, said his dad always opened his home for their friends, especially those in need.
"I guess he figured one or two more weren't a big deal and they were always welcomed by my dad's generous heart," he said.
Daughter Shelley Nibberich of St. Louis said her dad would often remind them, "When you work hard, you can help other people."
Mrs. Nibberich remembered family road trips back to Georgia from California. She said her dad had to keep in close contact with work and without cellphones, they had to make numerous detours to find pay phones.
"My mom threatened to drive off a few times while we sat in the hot car," she said.
Mr. Crawford was a hero to his eldest son, Chip Crawford, of St. Louis.
"He often talked about the changing of the guard and carrying on tradition," he said. "He set a high bar for us to follow, but his greatest legacy is that he taught his kids how to love."
In addition to his wife, sons and daughter, he is survived by his daughters, Colley Conley, of St. Louis, and Katy Weir, Christy Yates and Suzy Cassidy, all of Atlanta.
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