After college, “I had several different opportunities, and I decided to give back to my community,” Lawtonian Jacobi Crowley said. “I prayed about it, and the notion given to me was, ‘If you’re not going to fix home, who will?’”
Crowley is the academic counselor for Cameron University’s Open Doors program, an initiative that encourages eligible middle and high school students to pursue postsecondary education. He is also southwest fi eld organizer for Oklahoma Policy Institute, a nonpartisan independent thinktank designed to strengthen education, promote family health and income opportunities to create safer communities. He also serves as an associate pastor at Lawton’s New Life Fellowship Church.
“My mom, Virginia Crowley, taught my brother Mark and me a lot about perseverance, dedication, and hard work. She taught us those values and to trust in God, pray, and commit our lives to Christ. And it’s her lessons that led me to become an associate pastor.”
As a student at Country Club Heights Elementary, Crowley met former Lawton City Mayor Cecil Powell and decided to get into politics. He successfully campaigned for class president and eventually found a way to incorporate his calling for public service with another passion of his: sports. With his future ahead, he concentrated his efforts on academics and athleticism.
“I focused a lot on football, track and basketball,” he said. “My senior year, I had a lot of universities looking at me. I got a football scholarship to Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant and played football all four and a half years I was there.”
While earning his bachelor’s degree in special education, minoring in behavioral management, Crowley was also instrumental in reinstating the university’s debate team, and was active in SOSU Leadership, SOSU Wesley Leadership, Young Leaders of America, Generation Progress and SOSU Young Democrats.
His education and ability to network with community leaders afforded him many opportunities. Under the mentorship of Sean Burrage, university president, “I became the community outreach advocate you see today,” he said.
Crowley’s commitment to public service has twice prompted him run for state Legislature. First as state representative, and then, at the age of 25, he was the youngest African American candidate to run for Oklahoma State Senate and advance to the general election.
Entering the state’s political arena allowed Crowley to become more aware of the policymaking aspects of government, he said. In 2019 he became a fi eld coordinator for the Oklahoma Policy Institute. In this respect he engages and educates the community on issues that affect its members, and connects organizations with appropriate lawmakers.
Currently, healthcare and criminal justice reform are just two of the many issues OPI is deliberating. With approximately 14 percent of the state lacking health insurance, Oklahoma is currently second highest in the nation for the number of uninsured, according to the Oklahoma Hospital Association.
“We’re seeing a lot of rural hospitals closing down because the uninsured don’t have the means to pay their hospital bills, which puts [both patients and hospitals] in a bad situation. So, we’re looking into see what can be done.”
Focusing on criminal justice reform, Crowley stated that OPI is “speaking on all levels of fi nes, fees and not just the incarceration aspects of our state.
“After individuals … rejoin society, we still have a big problem, he added. They “are in a position where now they must pay, and they can’t get a job. Or if they do, they aren’t making enough to live on and pay their fi nes. It becomes a big circle and that contributes to recidivism.”
Crowley is a former Lawton Eisenhower High School football coach and crisis counselor at the Bridge Academy for atrisk students. While there, he heard stories that made him champion more for the children and their families.
“You’d be surprised what teens go through daily,” he said. Working with Lawton Public Schools “really pushed me more toward public service because I understood the issues that many face may indirectly affect us all. So, I wanted to advocate for education and for families who are living in poverty.”
Incorporating sports back into the community, along with Kim Jones, Crowley brought the Thunder Court to Lawton’s Lee West Park. Opened last spring, the court gives area youths a shot at basketball stardom.
Earlier this year, Crowley and his wife Rashelle were married. The couple have made their home in Lawton.
“She’s my Adam’s rib,” he smiled blissfully. “She compliments my weaknesses and really keeps me on track.”
Crowley currently serves on the board for Great Plains Improvement Foundation, a Community Action Agency that provides food to families in need. He also serves on the board for Lawton Parks and Recreation and Lawton Young Professionals. YP enables young business and community leaders to network and give back to the community in many ways.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who was killed by police officers in Minneapolis, Minn., Crowley initiated a peaceful march at Lawton’s City Hall.
“With what’s going on with Black Lives Matter, taking a knee and taking a stand and all those different types of [protests], we’re still not hearing from our representatives and senators. That does not speak well on this issue,” Crowley stated. “People want someone to lead them, but it’s hard to lead when your designated leaders are not leading.
“Before I had this particular peace march, I was told by – both Blacks and whites – not to do it; it would be the end of my political career. And it occurred to me that ‘if I’m afraid to lead, then I should never be a leader.’”
The march was held as a way for the community to show solidarity, said Crowley. “The message was effective. We were able to establish the Citizens Advisory Board to provide a means of communication between the community and Lawton Police Department, but as a nation we still have work to do.”
Crowley said his contribution to the community is God’s work and he will continue that work “until God tells me to do something else.” He sees southwest Oklahoma evolving in several aspects.
“I’m still holding onto His vision for southwest Oklahoma,” Crowley concluded. “Lawton has the opportunity to be one of the greatest growing communities in the state and become the setpoint for southwest Oklahoma. We’re in close proximity to other communities throughout the region” which could benefit them as well.