William Evans Crow belonged to a corps of Republicans who emerged as prominent state legislators and accomplished national politicians. He was the son of Josiah Benton Crow and the former Elizabeth McCombs, his father descending from the prominent Maryland colonial family of Michael Crow.[i] He was born March 10, 1870 in German Township, Fayette County, receiving a basic education while helping his father on the family farm.[ii] William attended California Normal School and graduated from Waynesboro College, marrying Adelaide Curry of Laurel Hill, Fayette County on March 24, 1897.
Senator Crow entered the newspaper business in 1891, working three years as a reporter for the Brownsville Clipper and the Pittsburgh Press. In 1893, he became editor of the Uniontown Republican Standard (later News-Standard), while preparing for a legal career under Boyd and Umbel, Uniontown. John joined the practice and the bar association in 1895, before his selection as assistant district attorney in 1896, and district attorney in 1898. He formed the law partnership of Shelby and Crow in 1905 and embarked on a successful lumber, coal, and farming career.
William served as secretary of the GOP county committee in 1895, 1896, and 1897, eventually chairing the organization from 1898 through 1910. He led the Republican State Committee in 1899, 1900, 1901, and 1918, serving as a member of the Republican National Committee from 1913 through 1920.
Elected to the state Senate in 1906, Senator Crow returned to the upper house in 1910, 1914, and 1918. He was President pro tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate from 1909 to 1911 and Governor Sproul’s Senate Republican caucus leader from 1919 to 1921. Crow chaired the Federal Relations Committee as a freshman, later serving in the same capacity on Railroads, Corporations, Executive Nominations, and Finance.
As chair of the 1913 Corporations Committee, the senator produced the state’s first Workmen’s Compensation Act, supported enactment of the Public Service Commission bill, aided in the adoption of the 17th Amendment (popular election of U.S. Senators), and backed the state’s 1913 Election Bill (in compliance to federal law). He championed the 1913 voter registration and voting machine act, the Commonwealth’s 1913 Civil Rights bill, the 1911 Anthracite Mine Safety Act, the Sproul Highway Act, and a bill exempting direct descendents from inheritance taxes.
An act “Establishing a School System in Pennsylvania” represented the highlight of Crow’s 1911 session as pro tem. After previous support of the 1909 school code, the senator proved instrumental in the enactment of the first modern education bill, a 28-article code establishing a four-class school system, applicable to districts encompassing from less than 5,000 to over 500,000 residents. School directors stood responsible for levying local taxes, and citizens bore responsibility to pay them. In particular, the system required local occupational taxes to finance state normal, vocational, special, high, joint, and teachers’ schools. Crow supported the death penalty, the 18th and 19th Amendments (prohibition and women’s suffrage), the 1913 direct primary election law, and sponsored Governor Sproul’s 1919 Constitutional Commission proposal. In 1921, he opposed Sam Salus’s Equal Rights (Accomodations) Bill and backed the session’s Full Crew Repealer, a measure responding to railroad management’s complaint of union featherbedding.
Selected by Gov. Sproul to succeed Philander Knox as US Senator, 1921, the Senator died in office at his Uniontown “Chalk Hill” family home, August 2, 1922, age 52.[iii]
[i] Uniontown Morning Herald, August 3, 1922.
[ii] Nelson’s Biographical Dictionary and Hitorical Reference Book of Fayette County, Pa. (Uniontown, Pa: S.B. Nelson, 1900) 413, 636.
[iii] Uniontown Morning Herald, August 3, 1922.