"The satisfaction of pursuing your passion is the best motivation possible; for if you can make a living doing what you want to do, you will hardly ever have to do a day of work," said Senior Historian, Dr. Michael Crawford, who was recently honored by the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) for 30 years of dedicated service.
Surrounded by nearly 100 coworkers and friends, Crawford received his 30-year service pin and certificate from Rear Adm. (ret) Jay A. DeLoach, Director of NHHC, during a ceremony held Jan. 25 at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy's Museum Educational Center.
"Dr. Crawford is a key member and intellectual linchpin of the NHHC team," said DeLoach. "Over the last 30 years, he has played a vital role in the growth and success of 'making Naval history and heritage come alive' for the Navy and the American public. His passion and intellectual insights have helped create a strong foundation of the institutional memory of the Navy that can be used for decision-making, policy development, operational planning, and educational outreach."
Crawford has been described as an invaluable asset to the command by NHHC's Assistant Director of Histories and Archives Division, Greg Martin, who said he feels fortunate to have him as member of the leadership team.
"Crawford's expertise contributes daily to the command's missions of telling the Navy's story," said Martin.
Following a yearlong fellowship editing historical documents at the Adams Papers project at the Massachusetts Historical Society, Crawford joined the NHHC staff in 1982. In 1990 he became head of the Early History Branch, a position he held until 2008.
"February 22, 1982, was a bitterly cold day in Washington, D.C. I remember my glasses fogging up when I entered the offices of the "Research Branch," where I began my work as a naval historian," said Crawford, who joked that since he started work for the Navy he was always open to better job offers, but in the last 30 years a better offer never came along.
Throughout the course of his 30-year career with NHHC, Crawford has served as Deputy Director of the Histories and Archives Division, Head of the Reference Branch and Acting Head of the Histories Branch. In 2008, he accepted his current position as Senior Historian.
Coworkers describe Crawford as calm, professional and a natural leader with a strong work ethic.
"He takes every day very seriously and spends his time getting as much done as he can," said Christine Hughes, a historian at NHHC who has worked alongside Crawford for 26 years. "We all see that; we all see that he is working toward his goals, and it makes everyone else around him want to measure up."
Hughes said one of the things she has enjoyed most about working with having Crawford is his creativity and the way he brings people together through history.
"One of the missions of NHHC is to make history come alive for our Sailors and Marines," said Hughes. "Dr. Crawford always manages to find both witty and entertaining ways to do that."
Crawford said some of his most memorable moments at the NHHC have been the occasional public performances he has done in the National Museum of the United States Navy.
"Once, for instance, for an audience of school children, I did a telephone dialog with Continental Navy officers from beyond the grave to teach about the beginnings of the Navy during the American Revolution," explained Crawford. "After the presentation, one of the school children asked me, 'You weren't really on the phone with John Paul Jones, were you?'"
In addition to those special moments when he brings history to life, Crawford has accomplished some very notable achievements such as editing two major award-winning documentary series and writing/editing 14 books. Additionally, he shares credit with two co-authors for the book Interpreting Old Ironsides: An Illustrated Guide to USS Constitution.
Of his many accomplishments, Crawford said one stands out from the rest - the publication of several volumes of the Naval Documents of the American Revolution series.
"This project was very fulfilling," said Crawford. "But protecting this lengthy and historically valuable project from a premature end is of even greater significance. The documentation of the naval side of the War of Independence is so extensive and so scattered that the full history will be known only if and when this project is finished."
In recognition of his dedication and contributions to naval history, the USS Constitution Museum named Crawford a recipient of its 2008 Samuel Eliot Morison Award, the highest recognition by the Board of a Trustees of the USS Constitution Museum Foundation of a person whose public service has enhanced the image of USS Constitution and who reflects the best of maritime historian Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison: artful scholarship, patriotic pride, and eclectic interest in the sea and things maritime, and a desire to preserve the best of our past for future generations.
More recently in 2011, the Navy awarded him the Meritorious Civilian Service Award and NHHC named him civilian of the year.
Crawford said he is not ready for retirement just yet; he still loves what he does every day.
"The most important quality for success in any career is passion for the work you are doing," he said. "I expect to continue working for some time to come, at least until my sixty-sixth birthday. After I retire, I might go fishing, but I am sure I will continue reading, researching, and writing history."
For more information about the Naval History and Heritage Command, please visit www.history.navy.mil and www.ourflagwasstillthere.org.