Bob Crow, one of the original founders of Long Beach Pride, died Friday morning after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 78.
Last month, Crow marked the 40-year anniversary of the city’s first parade and event celebrating the gay community.
He founded the event in 1983 along Marylin Barlow and Judith Doyle. Crow was the last living founder of the nonprofit; Doyle died in 2022 at 78, and Barlow died in 2015, also at 78.
Despite his health, he always did what he could to participate.
On Tuesday, Aug. 1, just a few days before the city’s 40th annual Pride parade, he told the Post he was going to try to get to Long Beach Pride’s headquarters for the first time in a long while.
“I got a text message, ‘Come, we’re going to start painting the float.’ I can’t paint anymore, but I can tell them where and how to do it,” he laughed. “I always did all that.”
In the late 1970s, Crow left Mobile, Alabama to find a new home—a more accepting community that would welcome him for who he was.
He recalled a night in which he brought a man back to his apartment in Mobile, but his date froze when he realized Crow lived in the same building as his brother’s girlfriend, Crow told the Post in a previous interview.
“He was so afraid that they knew that I was gay and then they would know that he was gay,” he said.
After dating for a while, the pair left Mobile and made Long Beach their home, although they broke up soon after.
“Too many men here,” Crow chuckled.
Tonya Martin, who was recently appointed president of Long Beach Pride, also moved from Alabama to Long Beach, and had grown close with Crow since she met him 20 years ago.
“Both of us came here without a family, so Pride became our family,” Martin told the Post previously. “And then the community became our family because of that freedom that we felt, that we could be ourselves.”
In 1983, Crow was sitting on a stool inside the Executive Suite—a gay bar on Pacific Coast Highway—with Barlow and Doyle, and the three began devising a plan to celebrate the local gay community. Together, they formed Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Inc., now known as Long Beach Pride.
Today Pride is the second largest event in the city, drawing more than 80,000 people over Pride weekend.
The three founders were honored for their achievement in 2013 with keys to the city. “These core individuals are the true pioneers that brought equality and diversity to our community,” Mayor Bob Foster said at the time.
In the months leading up to Long Beach Pride’s 40th anniversary, a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced nationally. And dozens of them were signed into law.
Despite this, Crow said celebrating the LGBTQ+ community and attending Pride holds the same importance today that it did in 1983.
“We have to keep supporting,” Crow said. “Pride donates a lot of money back to the community—and that’s money they’re going to need to fight these radical people with.”
On Friday, Martin said Crow’s efforts won’t be forgotten: “He lives in all of us now.”