Wake County

Former Raleigh councilman Thomas Crowder dies at 58

Councilman Thomas Crowder listens as members of the public speak to the Raleigh City Council about Dorothea Dix negotiations in March. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2013, Crowder announced in September that he had “exhausted all options of a cure.”
Councilman Thomas Crowder listens as members of the public speak to the Raleigh City Council about Dorothea Dix negotiations in March. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2013, Crowder announced in September that he had “exhausted all options of a cure.” ehyman@newsobserver.com

Thomas Garrett Crowder, who resigned from the Raleigh City Council recently in the face of advancing illness, died Tuesday afternoon in the presence of his family.

He left his 11-year post on the council on Sept. 24. His wife, Kay Crowder, will finish his term.

Crowder, a lifelong resident of Raleigh, will be remembered both for his eye for detail and for the deep-rooted loyalty he inspired among some constituents – and he was thinking about his city until the end, said Councilman Russ Stephenson.

“I’d have to say he was very much determined to go out with his boots on, so to speak. For the past few weeks, I’ve been going over to his house and visiting with him and his successor – his wife,” Stephenson said.

Crowder was relieved to talk during those meetings about the far-reaching plans he’d helped draft for so long.

“He was very much committed to the long-term visions he had in mind for District D and the city of Raleigh,” Stephenson said.

Doctors diagnosed the Southwest Raleigh representative’s testicular cancer in March 2013, according to his obituary. He announced in September that he’d “exhausted all options for a cure.”

Crowder first was elected to the council in 2003, after two terms on the city’s planning commission. An architect by trade, Crowder’s interest in city politics was partially rooted in his love of art and design.

He began his career as a teenage draftsman in 1973, intrigued by forms and functionality. When his father was diagnosed with a brain tumor, Crowder began to work full time at Holloway-Reeves Architects while taking evening classes at Broughton High School.

He later would become an architect through a 13-year apprenticeship – one of the last people in North Carolina to take that route.

In 1993, he launched his own firm, ARCHITEKTUR; he designed homes, bank branches and other buildings throughout the Triangle. When his Ashburton Road home burned down in 1998, he replaced it with an award-winning design, and he won accolades for Capitol Broadcasting’s TV tower along the Wake-Johnston county line.

“He really did have a great eye for design,” said fellow architect Louis Cherry.

Crowder also was proud to be an Eagle Scout, and in his last term he treasured Raleigh’s distinction in national rankings as one of the nation’s most sustainable mid-sized cities, Stephenson said.

To stay in touch with constituents, he hosted meetings, and even speakers, monthly at Whole Foods Market. Last month, he described service on the City Council as “one of my most humbling and rewarding life experiences.”

“I just can’t imagine what the council’s going to be like without him,” said former councilman Philip Isley.

“He could have stayed in that job as long as he wanted.”

Crowder died in peace at home, according to family friend Mandy Matson. Within an hour of his passing, which came at roughly 5 p.m., friends were gathered at the residence, just a mile from the place where he grew up.

He is survived by his wife; his mother, Mary Wilkinson Crowder; and his two children, Rachel Spencer and Garrett Crowder; along with two brothers, a sister, nieces and nephews.

“It’s a tremendous loss,” Stephenson said.

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