James Crawford
James Crawford

Obituary of James Joseph Crawford

CHAPEL HILL James Joseph "Jim" Crawford, Ph.D, 81, recognized as "one of the founders of modern infection control in dentistry," passed away on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. He was born June 23, 1931 in Springfield, Ill. to the late Marianna Merlow Crawford and Lewis A. Crawford. A resident of Chapel Hill since 1956, Jim is fondly remembered for being devoted to his Heavenly Father, to his family who surrounded him during his last days, and to his life's work as a professor of microbiology and an expert in dental infection control at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry. Before retiring in 1996, Jim contributed significantly to the study of life-threatening pathogens, their laboratory diagnosis, treatment and control. In fact, the Dr. James J. Crawford Award, presented by the Office Sterilization and Asepsis Procedures Research Foundation (OSAP), honors his lifetime achievements in the field of dental infection control. This award is given each year to an outstanding infection control leader in the U.S. His comprehensive research, recommendations and guidelines have been adopted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and incorporated into dental textbooks, lectures, regulatory documents and everyday dental practices. Jim's pioneering work in microbiology and infection control helped prevent the spread of the hepatitis B virus and later AIDS within dentistry. His presentation, "If Saliva Were Red," demonstrated the cross contamination that occurs from a practitioners' saliva-covered fingers and led to the teaching and practice of the use of dental gloves and improved instrument sterilization. Another study helped make root canals much safer and less likely to fail. Jim's interest in pathogens began early. After he graduated from Springfield High School in 1948, he attended the Gradwohl School of Medical Technology in St. Louis, Mo., where he gained a healthy respect for microbes. This early education motivated him to continue at the University of Missouri, earning a bachelor and master's degrees in microbiology. In 1954 he began his doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota and ended with a Ph.D in microbiology from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill in 1962. While a microbiology post doctorate at the UNC School of Medicine from 1962 to 1963, Jim conducted head and neck research to learn about the bacteria in nasal passages that caused hearing loss among cleft palate children. This research led him to study the anaerobic flora of the mouth and dental infections in collaboration with the Chairman of Endodontics at the UNC School of Dentistry, whose department he subsequently joined. Over the next 18 years at UNC, Jim became an assistant professor at the dental school (1963-1971); developed and directed a unique clinical diagnostic/research microbiology laboratory that conducted culture evaluations of head and throat infections (1971-1996); and became a full professor (1980-1996). During his career, he made presentations to the National Society for Dental Education and spoke at more than 50 dental schools across the country. In 1975, he became a consultant to the American Dental Association's (ADA) Council on Dental Therapeutics and its Council on Dental Materials, Instruments and Equipment. In 1988 he became a consultant for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. He was a founding officer of OSAP and the Society for Infection Control in Dentistry. He also chaired the Microbiology Section of the Association of American Dental Schools. His publications on identifying diseases of the head and neck, the prevention of transmitting infectious diseases, and the safe use of dental equipment and procedures, are too many to list. However, one of his major accomplishments was co-authoring a chapter on Infection Control in "Sturdevant's Art and Science of Operative Dentistry," a No. 1-selling dental textbook. As Jim once said, his burning desire was "to take microbiology out of the basic textbook and make it relevant and useful to the dentist." By all accounts, he did this, and he attributed his success to God. To family and friends, Jim was much more than "a contemporary Louis Pasteur" on the trail of dangerous pathogens. He was a devout Christian who studied the Bible so faithfully that his family awarded him an honorary Ph.D in Biblical studies in 2009. Likewise, he was appreciated for his love of nature and music, and his enjoyment of camping, hiking, bird watching and fishing. One of his passions was fixing things, be it a broken lawn mower, motorcycle, or sailboat. In his spare time, he enjoyed "tinkering" and inventing new ways to solve basic technical problems. His children fondly remember times when he took them to the hardware store to look at gadgets, went on nature walks to identify mushrooms and snakes, or had them visit his laboratory to learn about microbes and chemistry. Within the community, Jim took the time to preside as President of Toastmasters, provide counseling for Parents without Partners, serve on the Board of Fresh Water Ministries, and act as a prayer minister for Chapel Hill Bible Church. Jim was preceded in death by his parents Lewis and Marianna Crawford and sister Marie Crawford Johnson. He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Ann Roach Crawford, Ph.D of Chapel Hill; his brother "Bud" Frederick Crawford of Springfield, Ill.; his six grown children Margaret Mason Clemen, James "Jim" Allen Crawford, Catherine "Katie" Crawford Redick, Peter James Crawford, Carol Crawford Brandford and Anna Claire Crawford from his first marriage to Joyce Clark Allen, a resident of Carrboro; and his eight grandchildren Michael Ross Whittaker, Claire Mae Whittaker, Emily "Caitlin" Crawford, Rachel McKenzie Crawford, Rebecca Makai Crawford, Margaret "Maggie" Anne Redick, Emmeline "Emme" Joyce Redick, and Ella Nan Brandford. He is also survived by his long-time companion, Paji, a Senegal parrot who continues to call out his name, "Jim." A celebration of Jim's life will begin at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18 at Damascus Congregational Christian Church on 522 Damascus Church Road, Chapel Hill. Burial will follow in the church cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in Jim's name to: Damascus Congregational Christian Church - Baby Formula Project, 522 Damascus Church Road, Chapel Hill, NC, 27516 or Fresh Water Ministries, PO Box 3413, Chapel Hill, NC 27515. You may also make a donation in his name to another organization of your choice.
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Damascus Church Cemetery 522 Damascus Church Road Chapel Hill, NC, 27516
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