Inducted: November 17, 2015
Rex Crawford was born on February 25th, 1932 in Detroit, Michigan to Malcolm Crawford and the former Maude Skinner. He completed his secondary school education at St. Andrew’s College Aurora, Ontario and took extension courses from the Ontario Agriculture College in Farm Management as well as an extension course from Michigan State in Farm Engineering.
Rex married Ruth Anne Deacon of Wallaceburg, and they have three daughters – Jane (Matthew Manneke), Judee (Brian Glover) and Sandra (Scott Zavitz). They also have six grandchildren.
Rex is a well-known farmer with 400 acres in Dover Township, growing tobacco, sugar beets, corn, beans, seed oats and wheat. He managed 200 head of cattle during a 25 year period.
Over the years, Rex was a St. Clair Conservation Foundation Director, and Chair of Electorate. He belonged to the Kent Federation of Agriculture as well as the Christian Farmers and the Farmers’ Union.
He was very involved in the community serving as Past President of the Dover Rod and Gun Club, and with the 55 Investment Club, Wallaceburg Jaycees, Ontario Jaycees, the National Jaycees, the Children’s Treatment Centre Board, the Public General and Sydenham District Hospital Boards, the St. Clair Authority as Water Management Chair, Lower Thames Authority Water Management, Three Lodges, Federation of Anglers and Hunters, A.R.C. Industries in Wallaceburg, and the Dresden Rotary, as well as Parliamentary Education and Liaison Officer for New York State, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Rex was elected as Councillor, Deputy Reeve and Reeve of Dover Township and served as Warden of the County of Kent in 1987. He also served as Chair of the Dover Disaster Relief Fund and Flood Prevention Committee, and as President of the Kent County Municipal Association.
He received the “Man of the Year” award in Wallaceburg in 1988, and the Rural Urban Citizen Award in 1988 from the Wallaceburg and District Chamber of Commerce.
Rex was a member of the Federal Government for Kent from 1988 to 1997, voting on issues as he believed his constituents wanted. He was an independent thinker and did not always toe his party’s line. He stands up for what he believes. He lost an opportunity for a Federal Cabinet Minister position in the 1900s because he was open in his view on gun control, which was against party policy. He was also opposed to industrial wind turbines, thus siding with the Conservatives.
His favourite word was “constituents” and he tried to be responsive to their needs and appeals.
He served as Assistant Critic of Environment and served 8 years as Public Account Member and Veteran Affairs, was President of the Canada Chile Parliamentary Association, and President of Canada Cyprus Association, Vice Chair of Trades to China making trips to Chili, Cyprus and Vietnam. He also served as President of the Free Vietnam Association, President of the Taiwan Canada Parliamentary Association, and Vice-Chair of Trade to China. He was a Member of Canada-USA Parliamentary Association.
Rex was very instrumental in having the Ethanol Plant located in Chatham. Mike Ferguson shared the following information remembered from his time working with him in government. “To support ethanol, Rex’s Aid, Emery Huszka, distributed a cob of husked corn to each Federal Cabinet Minister and the Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, leading to the development of the National Biomass Ethanol Program and the start of the Commercial Alcohols plant in Chatham.
He toured the world as MP, including trips to China, Vietnam, Australia, England, Belgium, Cyprus and Chile.
At one event, he met Prince Andrew but didn’t recognize him until he said that he had attended Lakefield College in Lakefield, Ontario. They met again formally in the receiving line. Rex was well known for his social events at his office on Parliament Hill, to which MPs of all political parties were invited and all stripes did show up.
Rex did however, trouble a few Members of Parliament, as he had a noose hung in the corner of his office which was usually a conversation starter, leaving visitors with no doubt as to where Rex stood on the issue of capital punishment.
He had the respect of all parties. In fact, he attended the annual Western BBQ, hosted by then Deputy Prime Minister Don Mazankowski.
He had several private lunches with Pierre Trudeau who, contrary to popular opinion, was hugely supportive of MPs speaking out for their constituents, even if against the party line.
He was usually on the phone calling local residents of the County of Kent past 9:00 p.m. Back in the day, without e-mail or texting, people had to write a letter on paper, and Rex would always respond personally.
I could go on…but he was respected because he never lied. He never told someone one thing and then something different behind your back. He is a true politician, back when that was a respected title.”
From 1998 – 2003, he served as a Chatham-Kent Council Member, as well serving on the Health Board and the Fire Department Board.
Brian King called him “a down-to-earth” politician....with a wealth of knowledge and passion for his community and local government affairs.”