By Shelley Hill Young
“Lowcountry Live” host Tom Crawford is not easily rattled. That mix of calm and confidence during the storm comes from more than 30 years in the Air Force active duty and reserves, where he served in Thailand during the Vietnam War and Desert Storm. And from more than 20 years as chief meteorologist with WCIV ABC News 4. And 10 years of serving as a benefit auctioneer specialist, raising millions of dollars for nonprofits across South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.
He says he’s survived numerous Scud missile attacks as a crew member and loadmaster in the Air Force in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm.
“If you’re in a war zone,” he says, “either you’re going to go back and you’re going to be OK, or you’re not going to know the difference.”
When Tom returned from Desert Storm in 1991, he began working as a meteorologist on the News 4 morning show from 6:30 to 7 a.m., while also holding down his full-time job working in the nuclear department at the Charleston Naval Shipyard.
“I would take off my coat and tie and go to the shipyard and put on the coveralls and hard hat,” he says, as the “Lowcountry Live” host sits on the morning show set wearing a tux jacket and long black-and-white-striped skirt.
Then, he started working weekends at the TV station and says he worked for a year and a half without a day off.
On the same day Tom received notice that the shipyard was closing in 1994, the TV station’s then-general manager offered him a full-time job and agreed to pay for him to get his meteorology degree online through Mississippi State.
Tom has covered hurricanes and snowstorms, but what he remembers best are the live on-location shots, like the one in Marion Square when a baby elephant ran its trunk between his legs (OK, maybe he was rattled then.).
You have to keep your calm when covering a possible storm, while also communicating the need to prepare for the worst, Tom says.
“The viewer has a gut feeling that it’s going to be OK,” he says. “The meteorologist has a gut feeling that it’s not going to be OK.”
Tom retired from the Air Force reserves in 2008 and has been hosting the popular “Lowcountry Live” morning show with Erin Kienzle since 2014, where he’s interviewed Willie Nelson and Betty White – and come face to face with a 7-foot bear.
During the segment promoting the Southeastern Wildlife Expo, the bear’s handler told Tom to put an apple in his mouth. The bear stood up and swatted it down to the ground. Tom asked how many times the bear had performed that trick before. “That’s the first time,” replied the handler.
Tom says the show is popular because “when you see us on air, we are having fun.”
An an auctioneer, Tom once dropped to his knee and sang, “I only want to be with you for $12,000” to Darius Rucker. It was all in his effort to sell a six-course dinner for 12 with the James Beard Foundation at The Cedar Room. Darius declined, but the winning bid was $32,000, the highest bid Tom has ever received for a dinner.
“You always have fun with the crowd, you entertain them … and you never embarrass anybody,” Tom says. “It’s just so much fun.”
Fewer than one percent of auctioneers across the country carry the special benefit auctioneer specialist certification that Tom earned. He can tell you what time the first item should be auctioned, who should speak just before and the number of speakers you should have around the room for optimum bidding.
“When the doors open, I’m the only guy who can make money,” he says.
Tom works out for about an hour and a half every morning before reporting to the station at 8 a.m. for “Lowcountry Live.” He’s done by lunch and often meets with potential auction clients. He does about 45 auctions a year. He enjoys traveling and spending time with his four children and four grandchildren. Tom hopes to work at least five more years.
“I’m really fortunate and very blessed to be in the position I’m in,” he says.
Read more Men in Skirts: