Eldon H. 'Took' Crowell, 86

Lawyer Eldon H. "Took" Crowell, expert in government contracts, dies at 86

Mr. Crowell helped lead pro bono work at Crowell & Moring.
Mr. Crowell helped lead pro bono work at Crowell & Moring. (Courtesy Of Crowell & Moring)
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By T. Rees Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 28, 2010

Eldon H. "Took" Crowell, 86, the founding partner of the Washington law firm Crowell & Moring, who was considered a top expert in government contracts, died of an aortic aneurysm May 23 at his home in Washington.

Mr. Crowell and Frederick Moring, an energy lawyer, formed their firm in 1979 after leaving the Washington office of the Cleveland-based firm of Jones Day with 51 other lawyers.

The new firm specialized in negotiating large government contracts with corporations. Mr. Crowell was considered one of Washington's keenest experts on government contracts, and his clients included Boeing, United Technologies, Honeywell, IBM, Northrop, Lockheed and TRW.

In his later years, he helped lead the firm's pro bono practice, which was recognized twice by the D.C. Bar as the top pro bono program in the Washington area. In 2008, Legal Times named Mr. Crowell one of the top 30 lawyers in Washington in the past 30 years.

Mr. Crowell and Moring's highly publicized 1979 departure from Jones Day included two-thirds of the megafirm's Washington employees. Newspaper accounts called it "The Split."

Mr. Crowell said one reason behind the division was that the new group wanted to be more open about firm leadership.

"Our main hope was to create a democratic and more collegial atmosphere," Mr. Crowell told the Washington Business Journal in 2002. "We really wanted our partners involved in electing who led the firm."

Mr. Crowell said the innovative management style made the firm more cohesive. "It is a disaster when partners become too proprietary about their clients," he told The Washington Post in 1994.

Mr. Crowell led the new group as chairman until 1984. He became a partner in 1986 and senior counsel in 1990. Crowell & Moring employs more than 500 lawyers and has offices in New York, Los Angeles, Anchorage, San Francisco, Orange County, Calif., London and Brussels.

With his pro bono work, Mr. Crowell helped organize trips for summer interns to visit homeless shelters and soup kitchens to inspire them to consider themselves public servants. The outings, popular among the younger lawyers, became affectionately known as "Took tours."

Eldon Hubbard Crowell was born May 15, 1924, in Middletown, Conn. He got his nickname as an infant from his father, a dentist, who would hold him and say "Took, Took, Took" to make him smile.

During World War II, he served in the Army Air Forces as a cryptographer. He graduated from Princeton University with honors in 1948.

He received a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1951. Shortly afterward, he joined the D.C. firm of Cummings & Stanley, where he worked as an assistant to Homer Cummings, the U.S. attorney general under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mr. Crowell continued to serve at that firm until 1970, when he joined the Washington office of Jones Day.

He served on the boards of a number of groups and foundations and was a past board president of what is now Equal Justice Works, a nonprofit organization that promotes public service careers for lawyers. He helped expand the group's postgraduate fellowship program from seven fellows in 1993 to more than 100 in 1998.

In 1997, Mr. Crowell formed the Took Trust, a charitable foundation that assists youths.

His marriage to Mary "Mimi" Griffin ended in divorce. He had no immediate survivors.

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