ALAMOSA — Dr. Edward Crowther has been a presence on the Adams State campus for 30 years.
In addition to the classroom, he could be found on the football field as a volunteer assistant coach and in the board room as president of the Faculty Senate, a post he was elected to four times. Crowther’s booming voice was often relied upon to call a crowd to attention, to announce graduates at commencement, to encourage football players, and to auctioneer at fundraising events. His annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day presentations always drew an appreciative audience. Crowther was named emeritus professor of history upon his recent retirement.
Since 1998 he has headed the Department of History, Government, and Philosophy, renamed the Department of History, Anthropology, Philosophy, Political Science and Spanish in 2003. He simultaneously chaired the Department of Teacher Education from 2011 to 2017 and the Department of Human Performance and Physical Education in 2006-07. He also served with the Office of State Colleges in Colorado during 2002-03 as Associate Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs.
Crowther developed Adams State’s Master of Art in Humanities – History program in 2007. About 70 students are currently enrolled in course work, while another 100 are working on their theses. He and Dr. Richard Loosbrock, professor of history, took public school teachers on instructional tours of many of the historical sites in Virginia, Maryland, Memphis, and New Orleans through the Enchanted Circle History Organization (ECHO), funded by a three-year, $1 million grant from the Teaching American History program of the U.S. Department of Education. He also supports public schools through his long association with the state History Fair, serving as regional coordinator for the last 20 years.
Crowther did not set out to be a historian, but rather, a preacher. His initial academic focus was religion, and he had his own congregation in the late ‘70s while attending Mississippi College. His path in college was not a straight one. “I changed majors several times. I was going to seminary, then changed my mind and became an academic. I wanted to teach,” he said. “On the whole it has worked out well. I was very lucky to earn a living pursuing a rather esoteric discipline, and to have the chance to teach it and work with students and colleagues.”
That dedication was appreciated by students such as Patrick Cleary, ASU Class of 2017, who earned a full scholarship to the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. “Dr. Crowther was a valuable resource during my time at Adams State. Despite being extremely busy, Dr. Crowther always made time to answer questions, review documents, or talk about future plans. He truly cared about all of his students, and he is one of those professors where you can just tell that he truly has passion for teaching,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to take multiple classes with Dr. Crowther during my four years and they continually fueled my legal interests and are part of the reason I am where I am today.”
Crowther ultimately earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history, followed by a Ph.D. in history from Auburn University. Crowther has an exceptional memory, perfect for teaching history and recalling events and dates. Making the connection between religion and history, his dissertation was titled "Southern Protestants, Slavery, and Secession: A study in Religious Ideology, 1830-1861." He went on to write and present on both the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement.
“Religion gives us an interesting way to explore the human condition in the U.S. The Civil War is inexplicable without an understanding of the religious ideas related to morality and nationalism. It’s also key to African American history. The church was one thing they could control in the era of white nationalism. Religion was one of many sources of the Civil Rights movement,” Crowther explained.
Originally from Vicksburg, Mississippi, he said, “I started in a segregated school, then integrated; this was a part of our world in the ‘60s and ‘70s. We were bused and integrated and didn’t think much of it. Things are different now, but the kind of racial peace and harmony we hoped for proved to be a lot further out there in the future than we foolishly believed in 1975.”
Crowther’s books include Southern Evangelicals and the Coming of the Civil War. He also is a co-editor of and contributor to the new volume, The Enduring Lost Cause, which looks at how ideas that constitute the South’s Lost Cause have manifested themselves in 20th and early 21st century.
“The events in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017, are a good example of Lost Cause mentality, as are Neo-Nazism and white nationalist ideology,” he said, citing Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920. Published in 1980, it shows how the Lost Cause mentality has shaped everything from anti-communism and gender to the “persistence of the idea that the Civil War was about something other than slavery.”
Crowther has also written numerous articles and dozens of book reviews and encyclopedia articles. He is most proud of “Holy Honor: Sacred and Secular in the Old South,” which was published in the prestigious Journal of Southern History and is often cited by other academics. His 2012 essay on Martin Luther King Jr., published in Through a Glass Darkly: Contested Notions of Baptist Identity, has also been influential.
“Apart from students, it’s the people you put the years in with that make this a mostly rewarding experience. I’ve had terrific colleagues,” he said. He said his mantra for retirement is: “I will have a life, I will keep writing and coaching football, and grilling in my backyard.”