Truman W. Crawford – Colonel, United States Marine Corps

From a contemporary press report:

Colonel Truman W. Crawford, 68, commander of the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps from 1973 until retiring in 1998, died March 3, 2003, at a hospital in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

He lived in Washington from 1953 to 1963 and again from 1967 to the 1990s, when he moved to Stafford. He moved to Orrtanna, Pensylvania, in 1998.

Charismatic and exacting, Colonel Crawford was credited with transforming “The Commandant's Own,” based at the historic Marine barracks at Eighth and I Streets SE, into a professional organization and a spectacular recruiting tool that blasted audiences the world over with a rousing wall of sound.

“We were pretty much a bunch of hack musicians before he came around,” said the bugle corps' current commander, Major Brent Harrison.

Colonel Crawford's influence extended well beyond the Marines. At points in the 1960s and 1970s, virtually every championship drum and bugle corps in the country was playing one of the hundreds of arrangements he made.

“For a drum and bugle corps, he was our John Philip Sousa,” said Michael H. Gardner, who had been the corps' drum major under Colonel Crawford.

Drum and bugle corps gained in popularity after World War I, when veterans began using bugles as musical instruments instead of for their primary purpose, to signal troops. The Marine version was formed in 1934.

Colonel Crawford became enamored of the form as a high school student in his native Endicott, New York, where he heard a performance of the U.S. Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps. Shortly after graduation in 1953, he auditioned for the group and was accepted as a baritone bugler.

In short order, he became the corps' musical director and senior noncommissioned officer. But the unit was disbanded in 1963, and he moved to Chicago to run a music store.

He continued to arrange and consult with civilian drum and bugle corps. Based on his reputation, he was asked to join the Marines in 1967 as a chief music arranger.

During his tenure there, he jazzed up the playlist with show tunes and other popular music, and instituted a “slide-and-glide” style of marching that was a cool display of military efficiency. He also was influential in persuading manufacturers to produce bugles with two valves instead of one, allowing a greater range of notes.

Rangy and bespectacled, Colonel Crawford was a picture of ease when he was directing, seeming to will the music out of his scarlet-clad troops as he rolled back and forth on his heels. He performed before nine presidents, many of whom he knew on a first-name basis.

In 1979, he was given a scant two weeks to prepare a performance at Camp David, where Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin would have a diplomatic breakthrough. Recalling the experience in a 1997 interview with the Baltimore Sun, he said that the first words out of Begin's mouth after the performance were, “What a marvelous art form.”

When he retired, he was the oldest Marine on active duty.

Among his decorations were the Legion of Merit, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal.

He also was inducted in 1979 into the Drum Corps Hall of Fame and had received the top honors of Drum Corps International and Kappa Kappa Psi, the national honorary band fraternity.

He was a volunteer in the music programs of the Washington Metropolitan Police Boys Club, a coach of the Capital Boys Hockey Club and an official with the American Amateur Hockey Association. He also played in a senior hockey league.

Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Lucille Ellis Crawford of Orrtanna; two sons, Robert, of Altoona, Pennsylvania, and Truman Jr., of Arlington; two daughters, Cynthia Crawford of Stevensville, Maryland, and Lisa Crawford of Stafford; two brothers; two sisters; and eight grandchildren.


  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 06/01/1966 – 06/01/1996
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 04/01/1934
  • DATE OF DEATH: 03/03/2003
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 03/27/2003


Of Orrtanna, Pennsylvania, died Monday, March 3, 2003. Survived by his wife, Lucille Crawford; five children, Robert E., Cynthia L., David A., Truman W. Jr. and Lisa A.; eight grandchildren, two brothers, William and Raymond; two sisters, Irene Carosella and Sharon L. DellaPenta.

Funeral services, Thursday, March 27, 12:45 p.m. at Fort Myer Chapel. Interment Arlington National Cemetery with Full Military Honors. The family will receive friends Saturday, March 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Christ Chapel at Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Memorial contributions may be made to the ALS Association, 27001 Agoura Rd., Suite 150, Calabasas Hills, California 91301.

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