TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
James L. “Jim Lee” Crawford, the former publisher and editor of the Corbin Times-Tribune and part of the family whose name would be synonymous with the paper for more than 50 years, died Monday at Baptist Health Corbin hospital. He was 78.
In addition to his newspaper duties, Crawford was past president of the Kentucky Press Association, serving in the KPA position in 1973. He was also a past treasurer of the National Newspaper Association.
In his journalism career, he won numerous state and national writing awards for excellence in editorial and sports writing. Many in the Tri-County area and beyond still affectionately remember Crawford for his entertaining sports columns that he called “Pressbox Paragraphs.”
Crawford was also president of WCTT Radio, which the family founded in the late 1940s when the station went on the air at 680 AM. Later, WCTT-FM joined the newspaper and radio operations at 107.3 on the FM dial. Both stations’ newscasts were produced by the Times-Tribune for many years.
His father, John L. Crawford, bought into the newspaper in 1928, partnering with J. Springer Hoskins from Harlan, which purchased part of the business later that year. The Times-Tribune is currently owned by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc., who purchased the paper in 1999.
His son John, assistant principal of Corbin High School, said Tuesday night, “My dad was a good man, who fought the good fight for the last six months. He was very brave in the final days, kept his spirits up and he’s now with the Lord. Our entire family are at peace now, and so is he.”
Well-known in the community for supporting Corbin’s youth, Jim Lee Crawford was a long-time middle school basketball and Little League football coach of the old Central Elementary Falcons.
Dave Huff, a former druggist and friend, recalled Tuesday night how well Crawford connected with the kids.
“We coached together for about 15 years, and he communicated really well with them. He would help them out throughout their lives and careers. Most all of them would call him ‘Coach’ until they got into their 30s and 40s. I think his dream was to be a coach. When WCTT first started, Jim Lee did play-by-play on some of the games. He coached his son, Johnny, who later went on to Transylvania on a scholarship. He told me that he never missed a game while Johnny was playing at Transylvania. He also would go to Lexington to see his grandson Lee play basketball. His daddy Johnny coached him. He really loved the kids,” Huff said.
“First and foremost, Mr. Crawford was a gentleman. He was a great advocate of the City of Corbin, spent a lot of time promoting Corbin, and tried to Corbin a better place to live. He was a very active man in the community who was well-thought of, just like his whole family. I always remember him spending a lot of time as a youth coach. As editor of the Times-Tribune he was able to mold the city of Corbin into what it is today,” said a family friend, Corbin city commissioner Joe Shelton on Tuesday night.
Crawford’s dedication to civic-mindedness was immeasurable. He was a long-time member of the Corbin Lions Club, and served on the Corbin Recreation Board.
A graduate of Corbin High School, Crawford also graduated from the University of Kentucky, where he was editor of the school’s newspaper, The Kentucky Kernel.
Glenn Sasser, who serves on the city’s Planning Commission board, was a friend of Crawford’s since childhood. He said Tuesday night, “He was always big on promoting sports for the kids, a big Corbin Redhounds fan, and promoting Corbin and the Tri-County area. He wrote editorials that were always right to the point, and was immeasurably admired as a newspaperman.”
“He loved Corbin. I’ll never forget an article about Corbin at the time, talking about how awkward it was for the city being in two counties at the time. He suggested in his article that maybe Corbin should be in its own county, called ‘Corbin County.’ He was in various civic clubs, and he coached Little League football and basketball. Crawford was here when Corbin fielded a lot of championship sports teams, and you could tell how much he cared about our city in the articles he wrote. He was a very good asset for Corbin and it’s really hard to find people who were as dedicated to this city as he was. He was always positive about Corbin, and he was a great ambassador to Corbin in his writings. Jim Lee Crawford will truly be missed,” noted Corbin mayor Willard McBurney in a phone interview Tuesday.
In addition to his wife Norma and his son John, James L. Crawford is survived by four grandchildren.
A memorial service will be Thursday at 2 p.m. at First Christian Church in Corbin, with Dr. Wayne Bell and Rev. Ronnie Mitchell officiating. Visitation will be from noon-2 p.m. Thursday, also at the church. Burial will follow at Pine Hill Cemetery.
Hart Funeral Home in Corbin is in charge of arrangements.