Bob Crow, who went from a flower shop employee in an Alabama small town to a co-founder of Long Beach Pride, died Friday morning. He was 78.
Crow died at his Long Beach home after a six-year battle with lung cancer. He had started hospice care earlier this month.
Tony Almeida-Crow, Bob’s longtime husband, was with him when he passed away. They married in 2013 in a ceremony at Harvey Milk Park.
“We spent 29 wonderful years together. He was my best friend,” Tony said in a statement. “Although this transition is difficult, I know that he is no longer suffering or in pain. He fulfilled his purpose here on this Earth, to make it a better place, and I am grateful to have been by his side.”
Crow, who made his last public appearance at the Long Beach Pride Parade last month, was diagnosed with stage four cancer last year.
Crow, along with Judith Doyle and Marylin Barlow, founded Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Inc. in 1983. The nonprofit then organized the city’s inaugural Pride Parade & Festival in 1984.
Over the past 40 years, Long Beach Pride has become one of the largest and most popular LGBTQ Pride celebrations in the nation, though its popularity has waned in the past couple of years.
The Long Beach Pride nonprofit celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.
Crow was the last surviving founder of Long Beach Pride. Barlow died in 2015 and Doyle died in 2022.
Crow is credited with helping pave the way for generations to express their authentic selves.
“There are no words to heal the void in our hearts with Bob’s passing,” Tonya Martin, Long Beach Pride president, said in the same statement. “The only thing we can do is to remember that within this void lives the legacy of his vision and work. A legacy so strong that it changed the very fabric of our city and gave us a place to live freely and to say, ‘I am who I am’.”
Crow was born on Aug. 29, 1945, in Alabama, where he lived for much of his early life. Crow didn’t come out until he moved to Mobile.
Crow worked at a flower shop in nearby Addison where he frequented one of the few gay bars in the region to meet friends and make new ones. Noticing how often the few gay bars were raided and closed by police, he and his boyfriend decided to move to California, leaving behind the constant threat of hate crimes and police raids.
Crow and his broke up shortly after the move to Long Beach, and Crow learned more about the city’s gay community.
He later met Barlow while working at the Long Beach gay bar The Executive Suite in the early 1980s. A short time later, Crow, Barlow, and Doyle began thinking about a Long Beach Pride festival and parade.
The Executive Suite’s owner, Fred Kovelle, gave the trio $30,000 to develop their idea.
About 600 people marched in the inaugural Long Beach Pride Parade, which lasted about 30 minutes. Nearly 5,000 people showed up to the two-day festival on Shoreline Drive.
Crow received the Person of the Year award from the Consolidated Association of Pride in 2018 for his decades of advocacy for the LGBTQ community and his continued commitment to Long Beach Pride.
Crow, Doyle and Barlow also received keys to the city from former Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster in 2013.