Texas Southern University ushers in new era under recently appointed president James Crawford III

Brandon Hamilton Image
Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Texas Southern University ushers in new era under recently appointed president James Crawford III
Texas Southern University's new president, James Crawford III, speaks to ABC13 on his new position and what he expects of the institution.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It's a new era for Texas Southern University with the arrival of the institution's new leader: James Crawford III.

"Been a whirlwind, but it's been exciting," he said. "There's a lot of excitement on the campus, and we don't even have students here, so I can't wait for the students to get here."

"Why Texas Southern?" ABC13's Brandon Hamilton asked the new president.

"I said to the board when I chatted with them, 'It is the students because I can see myself in these students.' I come from a fairly modest background and had aspirations just like these students," Crawford said.

"High aspirations just like they have high aspirations."

Crawford, a Charlotte, North Carolina native, comes to TSU after serving in the Navy for over 30 years. He retired as a Vice Admiral and its 43rd Judge Advocate General.

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Crawford became president of New Jersey's Felician University in 2020 before stepping down last year.

"I want to be that helping hand for these students because I can see myself in them and their opportunity and potential to exceed and excel," he said.

To excel, Crawford understands the task at hand. He takes over for Dr. Lesia Crumpton-Young, who abruptly retired in 2023 after holding the position for two years.

Crawford was formally approved as TSU's 14th president in May.

"I had to pinch myself. I said, am I really here? 'Am I really in this moment? In this place, with its history, traditions, and rightly held expectations.' What is the potential to fulfill those expectations? I had to stop and say a prayer of thankfulness to be here for this opportunity," he said. "I feel that this is where I'm supposed to be at this point in my life. This is where I'm supposed to be. I feel really good about what we're going to do. Many will say there are challenges. I don't know of any place you can go that there aren't challenges. So, I embrace the challenge because success is the sweeter overcoming challenge."

A big test is now taking the HBCU to new heights. Crawford says that starts with the students.

"For me, every TSU completer must have three specific skills, obviously, digital skills, um, it's just really, it speaks for itself. Next, they must have technical skills. That means they must have the entry level expertise of the discipline of study that they chose. And then they must have cognitive skills. You know, problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity," Crawford said.

Crawford says he'll listen to and engage with everyone, from students to alumni and community stakeholders, in his first 30 days.

He understands what TSU means to Houston and the Third Ward.

"The community rightly feels that Texas Southern belongs to them. And I want them to continue to feel that way, which means we have to be accountable to the community and how we operate and how we protect their institution," he said.

Crawford, a husband and father of two, credits his time spent in the Navy with preparing him for this moment.

"What it enabled me to see is how you achieve things, how things are actually done. By that, I mean the Navy is a global organization that operates on a large scale with lots of assets and personnel, but all those missions are complex and only accomplished by the people you have. So, you have to be focused on your people at all times," he said.

RELATED: Former TSU police chief claims she was fired for intervening in ex-president's relationship

His guiding principles are faith, family, and service.

"Faith is really important to me. That's a part of how I live, at least how I try to live. I don't always get it right, but I try. But that'll be a part of how I will operate within this institution," Crawford added.

Crawford said he has circled on his calendar August 31, 2024, regarding bragging rights between TSU and Prairie View A&M University.

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