Robert W Crawford

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Robert Wilson Crawford, (1906 - 1995) was a pioneer of public park policy. As the 'Commissioner of Recreation' in Philadelphia, he established a national model for local government’s provision of recreational services for all citizens.

Early life[edit]

Born in Maryland on April 11, 1906, raised in Iowa, and died April 11, 1995 on his 89th birthday, in Walnut Creek, California


Past President of the National Recreation and Park Association and life member of its trustees board Co-founder and former executive director of the National Recreation Foundation Philadelphia's recreational facilities grew from 94 to 815 under Crawford's leadership Credited with developing programs for the elderly, preschoolers, and the handicapped.[1]

He was one of the foremost distinguished professionals in the park and recreation field.[2] and conceived the Recreation and Park Hall of Fame in 1987, when serving as Executive Director of the National Recreation Foundation.[3]


Much of Mr. Crawford's career was spent persuading government officials to increase the number of parks and recreational programs. When he came to Philadelphia in 1952, for example, the city had 95 recreational areas. By the time he left, it had 815, including parks, playgrounds, swimming pools and community centers. His approach was a primary force in changing the way cities viewed parks.[4]


Graduated from DeMoines University with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1929. Attended New York University and the National Recreation School in 1934.



  • Received the Philadelphia Award, 1976
  • Received the first World Leisure and Recreation Association Excellence in Leadership Award, 1993

In 1993, Crawford published his autobiography, "Reflections of a Recreational Professional",[5] all financial proceeds were donated to the National Recreation and Park Association.[6]


Died April 11 of heart failure in Walnut Creek, California[1]


Under his leadership in Philadelphia, parks added trails for hikers, basketball courts for people who used wheelchairs, and exercise programs based in community centers for the elderly. He also set up advisory groups to identify the recreational needs in specific neighborhoods. Temple University Librabries holds a collection of his professional papers detailed at,;jsessionid=E75BCE72D6FE5F38C7997B50FF1130B0?bhcp=1. As the Commissioner of Recreation in Philadelphia, Mr. Crawford established a national model for local government’s provision of recreational services for all citizens. His creativity and innovative ideas won him international recognition and, as its Executive Director, he played a key role in the development and growth of the National Recreation Foundation. He personifies those qualities of leadership and commitment the Foundation seeks to foster and reward with. The Robert W. Crawford Achievement Prize is named in his honor.[7]


His wife, Dorothy Mollenhoff Crawford, died in 1992. He is survived by two sons, Robert W. Jr., of Lincolnshire, Ill., and Daniel M., of Kentfield, Calif.; two sisters, Ruth Larsen and Jean Bernard, both of Des Moines; a brother, Andrew, of Broomfield, Colo., and six grandchildren.


He had moved to Walnut Creek in 1981 after retiring as Philadelphia's Commissioner of Recreation. The cause of death was heart failure, said Dean Tice, executive director of the National Recreation and Park Association.[4]


  1. ^ a b Temple University Libraries, RObert W Crawford,;jsessionid=E75BCE72D6FE5F38C7997B50FF1130B0?bhcp=1
  2. ^ Parks & Recreation, August, 1995
  3. ^ National Recreation and Park Association,
  4. ^ a b NY Times, Saturday, April 15, 1995,
  5. ^ ISBN 0-929581-76-8 ISBN 978-0-929581-76-7
  6. ^
  7. ^