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Posted: July 18, 2010 12:00 a.m.

The measure of a man

Newton athletic, civic icon passes away at the age of 86

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There are scholarships and tournaments in his honor, a road and park bear his name, but the true testament to the man Billy Carl "B.C." Crowell are how many people he touched in his 86-years. With the passing of Crowell on July 16, Newton County didn't just lose a resident, it lost a living legend.

Crowell was born in Porterdale in 1923 at a home adjacent to the baseball field named in his honor, a field where he spent his youth playing baseball, a sport that would eventually get him a scholarship to Oglethorpe University in 1940. He majored in physical education until 1943 when he left school to join the Navy.

While in the Navy he met his late wife Jane while refereeing a woman's basketball game. She was playing and he called a foul on her. Jane was born in Long Island, N.Y., and according to their daughters Sherrill, Susan and Nancy, the two would never have met had it not been for the Navy.

"They loved each other for 59-years," they said on a speakerphone conversation. "She died the day before their 59th wedding anniversary."

Many remember Crowell as a consummate flirt, a fact his daughters said embarrassed them terribly when they were younger, but that their mother didn't seem to mind.

"He loved to flirt, but at home he was the most devoted husband and he loved my mother more than anything in the world," his daughters said. "She was never threatened by his flirting at all and he would do it right in front of her," they recalled, laughing together. "But he loved her so much and after she passed (in 2004) he talked about her every day. He was a great husband and a good father."

After leaving the Navy in early 1946, Crowell played baseball with a New York Yankees farm team for a year then took a job as a recreation therapist at the Veteran's Hospital in Atlanta. He went back to school, completing his degree, before deciding to move to Arkansas to try his hand at farming.

"He learned very quickly that was not something he wanted to do," his daughters said. A year later he moved back to his hometown of Porterdale, bringing with him his northern bride, who suffered a bit of a culture shock at first, according to her daughters. He took a job with Bibb Manufacturing as Porterdale's athletic director, coaching at the junior high and high school, as well as adult teams.

 

“B.C. was my coach, along with hundreds or possibly thousands of kids in grammar school at Porterdale,” said Joe Norwood. “He was a great man and was dedicated to the youth of Newton County all his life. It has been an honor to have known him all my life. He will be missed very much. B.C. was a friend to everyone and loved by all.”

Karen Digby was also a student of Crowell's and remembered him fondly. 

“I only played basketball for one year in Porterdale and then was a cheerleader for the rest of the time. He was a tough coach, but he got the job done,” she said. “He was a wonderful person as well as a wonderful coach. I will miss seeing him and talking to him at Turner Lake.”

Crowell served on the Porterdale City Council from 1950 until elected mayor of his hometown in 1960-1965. In those years he was a founding member of the Newton County Recreation Commission and was instrumental in organizing the athletic program for Newton County's junior high schools, according to a biography by his daughter Sherrill. When the Turner Lake Complex was opened in 1999, the community conference room was named after him, a tribute to the man who many call the Father of Newton County Recreation.

According to Sherrill, Susan and Nancy, Crowell was also the center of their world, as well as the world of their brother Matthew. 

“He was always so supportive of everything we did. And he was always so positive. He never complained, even at home, and in the last 10 years when he lost both his legs, he didn't complain even then, he just rolled with the punches,” they said. “Even yesterday (June 15, the day before his death) at the hospice he told us that he was just fine. He always looked on the bright side.”

Friend George Stamps, one of Crowell’s fellow Kiwanians, called him an outstanding member of the community.

“Over the years he gave us leadership in the recreation area and the Turner Lake Recreation Complex owes its existence primarily to the efforts and determination of B.C. Crowell. He was a wonderful friend and he will be missed,” he said.

Tommy Hailey, director of the Newton County Recreation Department, knows Crowell’s contributions to that department well.

“I had to stop myself for a minute before I walked in today,” he said. “Even though I know he's not there, I can still look in the door and see him sitting in that chair, smiling.”

According to Hailey, Crowell would come to the rec department regularly and visit. Everyone looked forward to seeing him. 

“I grew up with B.C. as a kid in Porterdale,” said Hailey. “He was our coach, our mentor and a father figure for so many of us. Early on, getting to know him, and getting to be a part of his life is real special to me. He was one of the founding fathers of the recreation department in Newton County and he spent many years as recreation chairman. Through his leadership we were able to build several new facilities, and the crown jewel was the park at Turner Lake.

“You'd have to search the whole world over to find anyone who meant as much to a community as B.C did. When you said the word ‘volunteer,’ you'd see B.C.'s name beside it. He's going to be sorely missed here. B.C. loved life and lived it to the fullest

“You won't find anyone like that again.”

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