"I twisted arms, pushed, pulled and argued until I was weary of it. Then they did it," Rodney Crowther, 81, said of his recent efforts to convince Maryland state legislators to pass a bill that would allow elderly citizens to itemize deductions on their state income tax returns.
Crowther, who is legislative chairman of the Montgomery County Commission on Aging, has been pushing and pulling so effectively on all senior citizen issues before the Maryland General Assembly, the Montgomery County Council and the U.S. Congress that County Executive James Gleason tapped him for the 1978 Achievement Award as the Outstanding Elderly Citizen in Montgomery County.
Crowther received the plaque from Gleason at a brief ceremony last week in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Recreation Center where Crowther was once president of the Senior Citizens' Association.
He is the second recipient of the award. Last year it went to Ernest Wolfe for his work in promoting housing for the elderly.
Mary Louise Reiff, who has lived in Chevy Chase since 1932, said she came to the awards presentation this year because "I've known Rodney Crowther quite a while. He's president of MCASCO (Montgomery County Association of Senior Citizen Organizations) and he's a wonderful person. He keeps us up to date on everything that's going on at the various legislatures. We'd be lost without him."
"I admire his loyalty and his effectiveness. I've worked side by side with him here and he deserves every bit of this award," said Naomi Ward, of Bethesda.
Crowther, like other members of the Commission on Aging, works on a volunteer basis. His second career comes on top of 40 years as a financial and political reporter, including two stints as London bureau chief for the Baltimore Sun.
He was president of the Parent Teachers Association when his three sons were in grammar school in Baltimore and for six years was a member of the Baltimore City Public School Association. He and his family moved to Chevy Chase in 1954 when the commuting between Baltimore and Capitol Hill, which he was covering, became exhausting.
He retired from the Sun in 1969 and spent "a year and a half on vacation. I went back to painting as a hobby and I painted so many pictures I got sick of them," he said. "One day a neighbor, Fred Walton, took me by the arm and told me I should get involved in the (Bethesda-Chevy Chase Recreation) center. He brought me here and the next year I was president (of the Senior Citizens' Association)."
In 1972 Helen Alton, then Chairwoman of the Commission on Aging, asked him to join the commission. "I asked her what I'd do. She said, 'don't you know about legislation and that kind of thing? Couldn't you cover that for us?' I've been doing it ever since," Crowther said.
Since then he's had time to paint only four pictures.
"I can't commute to Washington, Annapolis and Rockville and keep up with my gardening and feeding the birds and squirrels and paint, too," he said.
Crowhter, whose wife was ill and unable to attend the ceremony with him, accepted the award with spirit.
"I'll cherish this award for, I hope, many years. I hope it will be with me when I grow old, so that I may look at it and remember the things I undertook to do on behalf of senior citizens in my county," he said.
Crowther said he was inspired early in life by a speech he heard Williams Jennings Bryan make. "The subject was the responsibility of citizenship and that's what I've undertaken to care about throughout my career," he said.