William (Bill) Lester Crawford, Jr.

Date of Birth

October 27, 1926

Date of Death

August 20, 2020

City of Death

Santa Barbara

William (Bill) Lester Crawford, Jr. passed away peacefully in his sleep at Mission Terrace in Santa Barbara on August 20, 2020. He was 93 and lived a long, satisfying life which he often summed up as “dynamite” and one of no regrets.

Bill was born on October 27, 1926 in Dallas, Texas to parents William Lester Crawford and Doris Doran Crawford. His family moved to Los Angeles during the Depression when his father took a job with 20th Century Fox. He attended parochial school, was an altar boy and had a daily paper route until his family returned to Texas.

Bill attended high school in Dallas, then enlisted in the Navy at age 17 where he served as a radio technician in the Pacific during World War II. After the war ended, he went to the University of Missouri on the GI Bill and majored in journalism.

On one summer break from college, he joined his parents in Laguna Beach, Calif. — and there he noticed a spirited young woman playing beach volleyball.

A year later, Bill married Joan Trautman. They moved to Columbia, Mo. where Bill completed his major, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. With a commanding voice and degree in hand, Bill took a job as news director for KNUZ radio in Baytown, Texas. In 1954 he accepted an anchor position on the evening news from a TV station in Houston.

A few years later he joined his father in oil drilling ventures before entering the car business. He started as a salesman in Dallas, then took sales manager positions in Lubbock and Amarillo. By 1965, he’d purchased his first Chevrolet dealership in Pasadena, Calif. He named it Champion Chevrolet which spoke to Bill’s goals for excellence and achievement in all facets of the business.

Champion Chevrolet relocated to Manhattan Beach in 1968. It was recognized as Southern California’s largest Corvette dealer and for its work environment which placed employees first and recognized their value and contributions. In the 70s, he expanded his operations to include Bay Buick in Torrance, Calif.

After selling Champion and Bay in 1985, Bill and Joan began envisioning where they would retire. Bill lobbied for San Clemente and warmer Pacific waters, as he loved body surfing. But Santa Barbara won out, and he and Joan bought two acres, and began the process of designing a house — as he said, “for the love of a good woman”. They decided on a cutting-edge firm Morphosis as the architects. The result was a bold, ingeniously sited contemporary home which provided unending satisfaction and pleasure.

Bill was a big fan of Santa Barbara, and often praised its “benign climate”. He joined the Unitarian Society, threw pots in SB Adult Ed ceramics, and planted trees, most of them oak or citrus. He was called Pa by his grandchildren, and was famous for Pa’s Bread which he regularly baked, then served toasted.

He was supportive of his children and grandchildren in all their ventures and adventures, all of whom continue to be guided by his enthusiastic urging to “make money while you sleep” , “go for it!” and “be stronger than horseradish”.

His wife Joan passed away earlier in the summer of 2020. August 1 would have been their 71st anniversary. Bill is survived by daughters Sheridan (and husband Laury Wolfe), and Susan (and husband Gregg Goggin) and grandchildren Ian, Taylor, Cory, Julia, Erik, Ingrid and Kelly. His son, Bill, predeceased him.

Gifts in Bill’s memory may be made to benefit the Doris Doran Crawford Nursing Scholarship at Santa Barbara City College set up by Bill in 1992 to honor his mother, c/o SBCC Foundation, 721 Cliff Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93109.


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