As Houston County Commission chairman, Robert Crowder focused on changing the commission’s image.

It was more than a board that looked after the county’s roads, current chairman Mark Culver said. Crowder helped make it a governing body on equal footing with other organizations.

Culver said both he and Crowder were elected to the commission in 1986, Culver as a commissioner and Crowder as chairman. Although its membership changed, Culver said Crowder was able to keep the commission pointed “in the right direction.”

Crowder died at his home in Taylor under hospice care on Friday. He was 67.

Culver was appointed chairman in 1997 when Crowder left the commission to become executive director of the Southern Alabama Regional Council on Aging.

Vickie Murphy, who served as Crowder’s secretary at SARCOA for almost 20 years, described him as a giving man who planned things through.

“Our program grew tremendously because of Robert Crowder’s vision,” Murphy said.

Under his watch the program evolved and moved from downtown Dothan to a new facility on Brannon Stand Road.

Murphy said Crowder was a strong advocate for seniors in the seven counties SARCOA serves and changed the direction of aging programs in Alabama.

He made contributions to programs across the state and nation through various boards on which he served, including the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the Southeastern Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Crowder believed that it was important to understand the aging environment at the regional and national level in order to advance SARCOA’s mission.

Culver said Crowder helped start the senior center in Taylor when he was mayor and was active in working with and helping seniors when he became commission chairman and later the head of SARCOA.

“It wasn’t just a job to him,” Culver said. “He did it because he loved them and he had a great reputation around the state for being a leader for senior rights.”

Murphy said Crowder was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and retired from SARCOA on Aug. 31, 2016.

Crowder’s father served in the military and he moved around the country with his family while growing up. They settled in the Dothan area and Crowder graduated from Dothan High School and Auburn University.

After terms as mayor and county commission chairman, he worked with SARCOA to support causes for seniors.

According to information from SARCOA:

Crowder fought to secure Tobacco Settlement money for Alabama’s elderly via the Frail Elderly and Disabled Medicaid Waiver program.

He was instrumental in promoting legislation to establish and fund the Senior Citizens Trust Fund to ensure sufficient funds for the needs of the ever-increasing senior population.

He helped to re-establish the Alabama Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Crowder served on the Governor’s Long-Term Care Task Force and served as past President of the Alabama Gerontological Society (AGS).

He was inducted into the Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in 2009.

Locally, senior centers in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry and Houston counties have exercise equipment, computers and Internet access due to Crowder’s vision and persistence.

Crowder was instrumental in securing additional local funding for the senior centers and achieved a funded grant for the Enhanced In-Home Service program, which provided homebound participants with additional food via the Brown Bag program and also provided additional transportation for medical appointments.

Through his leadership, the Hungry to Help Program was established giving sponsors the vehicle through which to provide nutritious meals to an elderly neighbor, a senior friend, or a disabled loved one.

Because of Crowder’s vision the Wiregrass Senior Resource Center was established.

Crowder worked directly with numerous senior citizen groups, service delivery agencies, city and county political entities and numerous other resource groups to meet the needs of seniors.

The SARCOA staff grew from 10 employees to 70 during Crowder’s tenure.

The family will receive friends at Ward-Wilson Funeral Home from 5-7 p.m. Sunday.

The funeral will be 2 p.m. Monday at Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Taylor. Burial will follow in Memory Hill Cemetery.

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