Peggy Elaine Crow—the vivacious, fun-loving, inimitable "Miz Crow"—passed away peacefully on Friday, March 24, 2017, in Austin. She was 87. The world will never be the same without her, and those who were part of her life will be endlessly grateful and forever changed by her love and laughter.
Peggy was Technicolor in a black-and-white world. Tall, statuesque and beautiful, with striking green eyes and flaming red hair, when she walked into a room, heads turned and faces brightened. Always dressed to the nines, she had unmatched style and poise, and a brilliant smile. Everyone loved Peggy; she was unceasingly positive and just plain fun. And Peggy loved them all back in equal measure. She rubbed elbows daily with the most powerful people in the state, but she made it a point to treat Capitol porters with as much respect as she did governors, senators, and billionaires.
Born in Austin June 21, 1929, Peggy attended Pease Elementary School, Allan Junior High School, and Stephen F. Austin High School, where she was an enthusiastic member of the theatre department's Red Dragon Players. Just a few weeks after graduating in 1947, Peggy eloped with her high school sweetheart, Billy Neal Crow. They were both 18 years old when they married on July 19, 1947, in San Antonio. In 1951, they welcomed their first daughter, Sherry, followed by Debby five years later. After living in San Antonio for a short time, they returned to Austin, where Bill joined the Austin Police Department and Peggy stayed home with the girls. They were deeply in love and envisioned a long life together, but that dream was cut short when Bill died suddenly of complications from heart surgery. At age 30, Peggy found herself widowed with 8- and 3-year-old daughters.
Like Molly Brown, Peggy was unsinkable. She had never worked outside the home, but with the abiding backup and support of her parents, she landed a job as secretary to a state representative during the 1961 session of the Texas Legislature. Over the next few years, Peggy's responsibilities grew as she worked for some of the early greats in Texas politics—Ralph Yarborough, James Slider, Waggoner Carr, Bob Bullock, and Byron Tunnell. From 1968 to 1973, she was executive assistant to Ben Barnes during his tenures as speaker of the Texas House and lieutenant governor.
By 1973, Peggy had established herself as a class act and a major asset to everyone she had worked for in the Texas Capitol. That year, the late, great State Senator Peyton McKnight, of Tyler, hired her to be his executive legislative assistant. Their first session together was the 63rd, which was the year of the raucous 1974 constitutional convention, or "Con-Con," as it was known—the first attempt to draft a new constitution for Texas in a century. Peggy adored "The Senator," as she called McKnight, and he felt the same, as did his entire family. Peggy stayed with McKnight until he retired in 1982. She went on to become the first executive director of the Texas Horse Racing Association and to work for the late Governor Ann Richards.
Peggy's resume is an astonishing, star-studded stroll through the Democratic heydays of Texas government. Her references are a "Who's Who" list of Texas politics. In fact, many of the people Peggy worked closely with in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s have buildings named after them today. Miz Crow's infamous rolodex was a testament to her vast network of connections and friends. No matter whom you needed to reach—from Willie Nelson to Darrell Royal to Frank Erwin to Perry Bass—Peggy had all their numbers, public and private, and could reach them in minutes. They would take her call when they would take no other.
Peggy walked with giants, but she always had the people's touch. Over the years, she used her powerful relationships to benefit hundreds of constituents, employees, and friends. Using the clout of the officeholders she represented, she helped people in need gain assistance through state programs they might never have known about, much less been able to access on their own. Peggy made a real difference in people's lives and treated each person with infinite respect, never failing to leave them with a smile.
Through it all, Peggy was a devoted mother to Sherry and Debby, a fabulous Mimi, a loving daughter, and a friend like no other. Her grandchildren, Blake and Paige, were her pride and joy, the sunshine of her life. Nothing made her happier than being with them. She could cook like nobody's business, and Mexican was her specialty. Peggy could make pimiento-and-cheese taste like a gourmet meal; she just had that special touch. She mentored a bevy of young people who worked for her, many of whom went on to achieve great success and none of whom will ever forget her.
In the years ahead, those of us who loved Peggy will carry precious memories of her and dozens of Miz Crow-isms in our hearts. We'll be "double-tough" when we need to be. On especially dark days, we'll remember to just take "one day at a time" and find comfort in the knowledge that "this, too, shall pass." We'll remember to keep the common touch in everything we do, and try to reflect the positive attitude, love for others, and joy Peggy modeled until the end. That will be her legacy, and a fine one it is.
Peggy was predeceased by her husband, Billy Neal Crow; father, C.R. Wilkerson; mother, Lillian Mae Hurley Wilkerson; mother-in-law, Esther Neans Glenn; and grandson, Shane Jenson.
She is survived by her daughter, Sherry Crow Kanak, and husband, Randy; daughter, Debby Crow Jenson, and husband, Richard; sister, Karen Wilkerson Shriver and husband, Jack; grandchildren, Blake Elliott Kanak and Paige Elaine Kanak, and also Jarod Jenson and wife Myka, Travis Jenson and wife Melissa, and Amanda Jenson; niece, Jackie Conners and husband, Jeff; grandnephews, Jarod and Jason Conners; nephew, Sean Scott Shriver; and great-grandchildren, Kyla, Anabelle, Mya, Stephanie, Kendall, and Joseph.
A memorial service celebrating Peggy's life will be held Wednesday, April 5, at 2:00 p.m. at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin. Burial will be private. Honorary pallbearers will be Richard Jenson, Randy Kanak, Blake Kanak, Paige Kanak, Jack Shriver, Jeff Conners, Jarod Conners, Jason Conners, Jarod Jenson, Travis Jenson, The Honorable Ben Barnes, David Burrow, Nick Kralj, Billy Bob Barnett, Bryan Dabbs, Eric Geisler, Sondra Williamson, and Connie Seigmund. Memorial contributions honoring Peggy's memory may be made to the Darrell K. Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer's Disease.
Peggy's family invites you to bring your favorite Miz Crow stories and be prepared for a lot more laughter than tears. That's the way Peg would have wanted it.