William Raymond Crumley Jr., 86, a former principal of the Fitler Academics Plus School in Philadelphia, died Monday, June 8, of lung cancer at his home in the Quadrangle in Haverford.
Mr. Crumley started his teaching career at Stokely Elementary School in Philadelphia. Later, he accepted a special assignment as administrator of a school for at-risk students.
He then served as an auxiliary principal at several schools throughout the School District before being named principal of Fitler in 1975. Mr. Crumley led Fitler for 18 years.
Under his leadership, Fitler’s test scores rose, drawing national attention. The school was featured in Time magazine and on TV. In 1981, Barbara Bush, wife of the then-vice president, visited Fitler to find out firsthand “what makes one school work when others don’t,” the Associated Press wrote. Mr. Crumley was there to greet her.
She learned that the key to success included discipline and solid instruction in reading and math. She also found a school at which students and their parents worked closely with teachers and administrators.
“The school is so popular that 1,600 parents have added their names to a waiting list to enroll their children,” Mr. Crumley told the AP.
Bush toured Fitler as part of her campaign to end illiteracy. “If you can’t read, you just can’t go on,” she said. “At this school, they are seeing to it that students are learning reading and math.”
Mr. Crumley retired from the School District in June 1993.
“His lasting legacy is the many, many students who have continued to honor him for his belief in them and his insistence on high academic and moral standards,” his family said in a statement.
Former Fitler student Ashley Scott remembered Mr. Crumley as personable and attentive.
“He knew every student’s name in the school — I mean almost every last single student that came in there,” he told the Philadelphia Tribune. “He knew them and developed a relationship with them and their families.”
Mr. Crumley’s former students honored him in 2015, presenting him with a city citation for achievement.
Born in Philadelphia to William Ray Crumley Sr. and Moxley Olivet Green Crumley, he was the youngest of four children. He was a product of Philadelphia public schools, attending Dunlap Elementary School and Central High School, where he played football.
After graduating from high school, Mr. Crumley joined the Air Force and served in the early 1950s during the Korean War. He was honorably discharged with the rank of staff sergeant.
Mr. Crumley earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Cheyney University, where he pledged the Beta Gamma Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Later, he earned a master’s degree in education and a certificate for principalship from Pennsylvania State University.
Jill Rosenfield, a school counselor at Fitler when it opened in 1976, said Mr. Crumley had an ongoing impact on many students, even in raising their own children.
Rosenfield said Mr. Crumley knew how to combine love, discipline, leadership, and fun. He set aside one day each spring as a play day in the school’s parking lot. There were games and concessions, and students wore their Fitler T-shirts.
“It was something the kids looked forward to,” she said.
Mr. Crumley lived in Philadelphia and then Wayne.
In 2014, Mr. Crumley married Dr. Audrey Womack, his friend of more than 40 years. The couple retired to the Quadrangle, a senior community, in February.
Mr. Crumley was a member of Reeve Memorial Presbyterian Church in West Philadelphia. He was also a member of the Philadelphia Public School Retired Employees Association.
Besides his wife, he is survived by two sisters, three nephews, and four nieces. He is also survived by a stepson, Darryl Gore, and a son, Tracy Crumley, by two previous marriages.
A celebration of life will be held when the coronavirus pandemic ebbs.