Crawford Jr., William G.


    A native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, William G. Crawford, Jr., is the author of numerous articles on Florida’s Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, has written scores of others on Florida history, and is an acknowledged expert on the waterway’s history.  He has appeared as historian on the History Channel’s Modern Marvels documentary on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

    A Fort Lauderdale attorney for more than thirty years, Crawford is past chair and a longtime member of the Broward County Historical Commission, past president and a trustee of the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, historian of the Lauderdale Yacht Club, and the City of Fort Lauderdale’s 2004 Citizen of the Year for his efforts in preserving the city’s history.  He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the Stetson University College of Law.

    Crawford has lived in Fort Lauderdale, a city straddling the Intracoastal Waterway, his entire life and when not practicing law, is found rowing his ultra-light one-man shell in and about the waterway.  He and his wife, Dr. Claire M. Crawford, a longtime member of the Broward Cultural Council, reside in Fort Lauderdale in a home designed by his father, William G. Crawford, a noted local architect who practiced architecture there from 1937 until 1978.

    Bill Crawford is available for presentations to historical societies, corporate functions and all groups interested in the history of Intracoastal Waterway.  He can be contacted by e-mail at


About the Book


The dream of a waterborne superhighway that would unite the nation and move its commerce dates back to the Founding Fathers. Like many outsize dreams, realizing it took decades of determination, engineering feats, financial wizardry, and lobbying.  The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIW) now stretches from Boston to Miami, fulfilling its purpose of protected passage for ships and boats, serving for commerce in some areas and recreation along its length.

In this first comprehensive look at the construction of the Florida portion of the AIW, Crawford traces the roots of the waterway back to the Founding Fathers, through the history of the Canal Era and its difficult path in Congress and in Florida's young legislature as one of the early private-public partnerships, drawing upon early records and land deeds, and tracking the history of the men who made it a reality.

The story of Florida's Big Dig resonates with readers who have followed other major construction projects, be they the extension of the railroads to the west or the massive ‘Big Dig’ highway network under Boston. It also serves as a new window on the evolution of transportation in the United States and the state of Florida. In this volume, readers meet the Founders during their quarrels over the proper role of government in commerce, intrepid St. Augustine investors in the Florida waterway whose vision exceeded their pocketbooks, and New England capitalists who made their marks leading many of the nation's major enterprises of the era.

By the time the waterway was completed in the 1930s, it was obsolete for its intended purpose because railroads and highways carried the freight once envisioned moving by barge and ship. Still, it played a major role in the safe passage of commerce along the Atlantic Seaboard during World War II. Today, it promotes recreation and one of Florida's major economic engines, the boating industry. 

Although this volume is a work of scholarship that pulls together original documentation from sources around the United States and in Canada, it also is a tale of an inland passage for seafarers and a yarn of the men and machines that would reshape nature for human uses. 


FROM THE Palm Beach Daily News, November 17th, 2009

By MICHELE DARGAN, Daily News Staff Writer

 'William Crawford was looking for some research on the Intracoastal Waterway and asked an historian if there was a book about it.

"He said, 'Why? Would you like to write one?' " Crawford said.

That was 10 years ago.

Crawford authored Florida's Big Dig: The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Miami, 1881 to 1935, published by the Florida Historical Society in November 2007.

Crawford was the first speaker Tuesday in The Prologue Society's 2009-10 season at Northern Trust Bank....' 

click here for the continuation of article on the Palm Beach Daily News website



| South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Lawyer and amateur historian Bill Crawford wasn't looking for a book project, but one found him.

In researching Broward County's legal past, Crawford needed information on an island once said to be owned by mobster Al Capone. So he asked local historian Rodney Dillon if there were any books on the Intracoastal Waterway.

"None. Why don't you write one?" Dillon replied.

"I said, 'Well I'll think about it,'" Crawford recalled. "Ten years later the book comes out."

Florida's Big Dig: The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Jacksonville to Miami, 1881 to 1935 was published by the Florida Historical Society in November, the first book to tell the story of the waterway that shaped the state and made South Florida a boating destination.

And it was penned by a self-described "dry land sort of guy."

In May, the society, acting on a decision by three independent judges, named it the year's best book on Florida history. The 400-page volume was featured as an editor's choice in the June issue of
Southern Boating
magazine, and about 900 copies of the initial 1,000 press run have been sold.

"The simple fact is nobody has ever done a history of the Intracoastal Waterway," Nick Wynne, director of the Florida Historical Society, said from his Cocoa office. "This was an area of Florida's history that had not been explored before."

Crawford, 58, Fort Lauderdale, is hardly a serious boater, though he does traverse the Intracoastal Waterway in a rowing shell. And while he had written numerous short articles for historical journals, he was at a disadvantage when it came to writing a full book.

"Writing is something that never came easy to me," he said. "I had to learn to write and then I had to learn the historical method."

In other words, don't recite dates, but tell a story.

There came a decade of weekends spent writing, and vacations that morphed into research excursions. Crawford's inquiries stretched from Dublin to New Zealand, and resulted in box upon box of background material.

Though writing was a challenge, Crawford did have one edge: His lawyer's eye. "I read a lot of legal documents," he said.

Another advantage was his wife, Claire, who helped with research queries and to whom he dedicated the work. "There is no way I could have written this book without Claire," he said.

The result was a heavily footnoted, scholarly tome that also could appeal to boaters familiar with the Intracoastal Waterway. "It isn't a quick read; it's a very weighty book," Crawford said.

"Often you get books that are both scholarly as well as popular, and Bill's book certainly does that," Wynne said.

"He's very thorough, meticulous and logical," said Paul George, Miami-Dade College professor and widely known area historian. "He has shed new light on a topic that hasn't been studied to this degree before."

Crawford will continue with his historical research: "It's not a hobby, it's a passion."

He may revisit a favorite topic: desegregation of Fort Lauderdale beaches. But another book is not on the immediate horizon. "Books are hard to come by; they take a long time to write," he said.

Crawford's book is available on and at Bluewater Books on the 17th Street Causeway. It also can be found on the Web sites of most major bookstores, but not on their shelves. Still, the nonprofit historical society is working to meet the demand.

"We're already making preparations for a reprint," Wynne said.

Robert Nolin can be reached at or 954-356-4525.