Eldon "Took" Crowell, one of the leaders of the 1979 schism of Jones Day's Washington office and the founding chairman of what became Crowell & Moring, died yesterday of an aortic aneurysm at his home in Washington. He was 86.
Crowell started his legal career in 1951 as an associate in Washington at what was then called Cummings & Stanley. While at Cummings, he worked as an assistant to Homer Cummings, who had been attorney general under President Franklin Roosevelt. Crowell became a partner in succeeding permutations of that firm, Cummings & Sellers and Sellers, Conner & Cuneo.
In 1970, he joined Reavis Pogue Neal & Rose, a Washington-based affiliate of Cleveland’s Jones Day. There he represented major government contractors, including Boeing, United Technologies, Honeywell, IBM, Northrop, Lockheed, and TRW.
But in 1979, lawyers in the Washington office of Jones Day became embroiled in a struggle over the direction of the firm. Fifty-four lawyers, led by Crowell and Frederick Moring, left to start a government contracts boutique. The firm they founded now has more than 500 lawyers in eight offices.
In 1990, Crowell stepped down as a partner and became senior counsel. In that role, he focused on promoting the firm’s pro bono program. He was also involved in mentoring associates. Instead of hosting parties for summer associates, he would load them on buses for the so-called “Took Tour” to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and nonprofit groups.
Crowell & Moring’s current chairman Kent Gardiner said that Crowell became a “voice of support” to the firm during the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009. “He was constantly calling on us to raise our game, not just as lawyers but as people,” Gardiner said.
As an example of Crowell’s push to bring the lawyers and staffers together as a team, Gardiner pointed to the fountain Crowell had installed in the lobby of the firm's Washington office. That fountain has become famous in the D.C. community for the rubber ducks floating in it. “That fountain was meant to represent the soul of the firm,” Gardiner said. “But I can tell you that the artist wasn’t too pleased to see all of those ducks in it. It’s pretty funny looking.”
Crowell served on several charitable boards in D.C., including the City Lights School, Equal Justice Works. the Conservation Research Foundation, the Judiciary Leadership Council and the Constitutional Accountability Center. In 1997, he established a private charitable foundation, The Took Trust, which assists at-risk youth.
In 2008, Legal Times named Crowell as one of 30 visionaries in its list of “Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 Years.” That article said Crowell had “a little bit of revolutionary mixed in with the visionary.”
Crowell was born in Middletown, Conn., on May 15, 1924. After service in the Army/Air Corps in World War II, he graduated from Princeton University, cum laude, and the University of Virginia School of Law.
His wife, Mimi Crowell, died in September 2006.
Photo by The National Law Journal's Diego Radzinschi.