'God was his author': Community bids farewell to Ray Crenshaw

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch
Family, friends and community members sing "I'll Fly Away" as the casket of civil rights leader Raymond "Ray" Crenshaw is carried from the sanctuary during a Celebration of Life service at Bishop Small Memorial AME Zion Church in York City, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

To many, Ray Crenshaw was a trailblazing leader in York City — a former councilman, school board member and the first African-American mayoral candidate. 

But to Tatiana Christopher, Crenshaw was just Grandpa. 

"I have thousands of stories I could tell and hundreds of laughs I could share, but I want everyone to know this — he never gave up," she said. 

Christopher was among the community members and relatives who celebrated his life Saturday, Dec. 15, at the Small Memorial AME Zion Church in York City.

Crenshaw died on Sunday, Dec. 9, at age 86. 

"God was his author and Mr. Ray was the leading man," said York NAACP President Sandra Thompson. "He is worthy of every Emmy and every Oscar and every crown that God has for him."

More:Ray Crenshaw: Civil-rights pioneer, elder statesman, beloved mentor dead at 86

Thompson said the way to honor Crenhsaw, a personal mentor to her, is "by continuing to fulfill his purposes," she said. 

Honoring Crenshaw's legacy means continuing to fight for better education and further economic development, and continuing to open doors to political offices that "were denied to him," she said. 

Former York City Mayor Kim Bracey said it was Crenshaw's efforts that allowed her to serve her two terms as mayor.

"If there wasn't a city Councilman Ray Crenshaw, or the first African-American mayoral candidate Ray Crenshaw, there would not have been a Mayor Kim Bracey," she said. 

Rather than speak of his mind or heart, state Rep. Carol Hill-Evans spoke about Crenshaw's strength. 

On his "broad, firm" shoulders, Crenshaw held those who came after him on City Council and other entities he served, the former city councilwoman said. 

Hill-Evans recalled times when others thought Crenshaw might have been sleeping during council meetings because he was so still and quiet. 

He wasn't — he was listening and planning, she said. Crenshaw was a "man of quiet strength," she added. 

Crenshaw was constantly serving his community through service and faith, upholding the principles of the Black Ministers' Association of York, said association president the Rev. William Kearney. 

"We will always remember the model citizen found in Mr. Crenshaw," Kearney said. 

On top of all the work Crenshaw did to better his community, his son Russell characterized his father as the "kind of guy that was hard to know and not love."