Texas Southern University Names James W. Crawford Its President

On May 16, Texas Southern University voted to make U.S. Navy Vice Adm. James W. Crawford III the university’s 14th president. Crawford previously served as the president of Felician University and is currently a trustee at Belmont Abbey College, located in North Carolina. Crawford’s military career in the Navy stretched over 30 years, culminating in his retirement as the judge advocate general, the most senior rank for an attorney in the Navy. 

As the Houston Chronicle reports, Crawford will begin his term on June 1 and looks to bring stability to a university that has faced its share of scrutiny from both state lawmakers and the public due to several scandals involving university leadership. Although Crawford’s military career ended amid allegations that he tampered with the prosecution of a Navy SEAL accused of the rape of his girlfriend, officials at Texas Southern University are pleased with the appointment of Crawford.

Crawford, who was the sole finalist for the position, which had been filled in an interim role by Mary Sias, a board member who had come out of retirement to help the university as it searched for a new leader, was thrilled to be selected by the university, as he told the Chronicle in April, “I was taught that the most significant gift one can ever receive or give is the gift of service,” Crawford said. “To be selected to be the finalist for the presidency of Texas Southern University, a proud and accomplished HBCU, is an honor beyond measure.” 

TSU’s last president, Lesia Crumpton-Young, requested to retire in May 2023 amid multiple lawsuits, including one that claims that the university’s former police chief, Mary Young, was fired for intervening in an alleged relationship between Crumpton-Young and an officer on her security detail.

TSU, like many other HBCUs, has been fighting for equal funding from the state. Although Texas created the Texas University Fund to support universities outside the UT and Texas A&M Systems’ Permanent University Fund, the high entry requirements exclude Texas Southern University from applying. Unlike Prairie View A&M, which is part of the Texas A&M System, TSU has expressed a desire to remain independent.

To that end, TSU is looking to become the first HBCU to be granted “Research 1” status from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, giving them a larger share of federal grants to help offset a lack of funding from the State of Texas. 

In a press release, TSU Board of Regents Chairman Brandon L. Simmons laid out his belief that Crawford is the right man for the job, saying, “James Crawford comes to Texas Southern University with a breadth of leadership experience not often seen in a university president.”

Simmons added, “He has served students as both a university president and trustee. He has served in global leadership roles under six U.S. Presidents in peacetime and wartime. He is a husband, a father of twin sons, and a former college basketball player who was drawn to Texas Southern by our students because they remind him of a younger version of himself. Our board concludes the presidential search as we began it: united in serving our extraordinary Texas Southern students.”

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