Former commissioner passes away
Jimmy Crum, a longtime Butler County commissioner, died Saturday. He was 73.
Crum, who served 16 years on the commission, died at UAB Hospital in Birmingham while waiting to have a pacemaker implanted to regulate his heart rate.
“On Friday, he just fell out,” Kenneth Crum said. “The fellow he was working with took him to L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital and they noticed his heart rate was really low. He was alert and talking. He spent the day at the hospital here, and that night was transferred to UAB. He was scheduled to have the surgery Saturday, but sometime around 2 a.m. that morning he passed away.”
Butler County Commission Chairman Jesse McWilliams called Crum’s passing a “tremendous loss” for Butler County.
“I was sad to hear about Jimmy’s passing,” McWilliams said. “He was a good friend, and he served our community well for a number of years. He’s certainly going to be missed. He had a tremendous impact on our county.”
Crum was first elected in 1984, and was the first black man ever elected to the commission. He served three terms from 1984 to 1996.
He rejoined the commission for a fourth term in 2008. His final term ended this year when Allin Whittle defeated him in his bid for re-election.
During his third term in office, Crum became the first chairman of the Butler County Commission to be selected from the ranks of the commissioners. Previously the county’s probate judge had served as the chairman.
“That was quite an honor,” Jimmy Crum said near the end of his final term in office. “I’m proud of my time as chairman. As the first chairman, and the first black person to be chairman, I didn’t downgrade the office of chairman. In fact, with the schooling I had received, I believe I upgraded the office.”
The “schooling” Crum mentioned is just another of his accomplishments as a commissioner. The Greenville native was a member of the first graduating class of the Alabama County Commissioners College, which is sponsored by Auburn University’s Center for Governmental Services.
Education was of the utmost importance to Jimmy Crum.
“He always placed a lot of emphasis on education,” Commissioner Frank Hickman said. “It was obvious that it was very important to Jimmy and that he believed a person could advance themselves in life by pursuing education. That shows in the lives of his children and grandchildren and their pursuit of education.”
McWilliams called Jimmy Crum a “strong supporter of public education.”
“He was always looking for ways that we could help our school system,” he said.
Whittle, who serves as the assistant superintendent for the Butler County School system, said Jimmy Crum was a true friend to the school system.
“Mr. Crum was also very encouraging and supportive,” Whittle said. “He was always willing to help our schools. Mr. Crum was very wise. He had the ability to figure out what people needed and then get that taken care of. Not everyone can do that. I’m going to miss him and being able to go to him for advice on certain issues. I was very sad to hear of his passing.”
Hickman said Jimmy Crum also placed an emphasis on creating jobs in Butler County.
“He was very much a voice on the commission for economic development,” he said.
Jimmy Crum assisted in creating the Butler County Commission for Economic Development, which eventually played a role in the county landing a number of industries, including two Tier I automobile suppliers in Hysco America and Hwashin America.
“Butler County owes a great debt of gratitude to Mr. Crum,” Hickman said.
But while Jimmy Crum’s contributions to the commission were many, he was most proud of his family’s achievements.
“His first love was his children and grandchildren,” McWilliams said. “He was very proud of his children and grandchildren and their achievements in school. Whenever you saw Jimmy, he was going to tell you about how his kids and grandkids were doing.”
Butler County Administrator Diane Kilpatrick began working with Jimmy Crum in 1994. Like McWilliams, she described him as a family man first, and a politician second.
“He always had a smile on his face and a story to tell about his family,” she said. “I found him to be a very nice and caring man. He made sure that he recognized and complimented the work of the commissioners and of the staff in the commission office in his comments to the public in our meetings. I felt that he appreciated the job we all did for Butler County. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. He will be missed.”
Funeral services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Dunbar Recreation Center.