Remembering Former ACU Chairman Phil Crane

The American Conservative Union (ACU) is saddened by the loss of former ACU chairman and conservative pioneer Representative Phil Crane.

Illinois Congressman Philip M. Crane was elected ACU chairman in February 1977. While the Reagan defeat had temporarily taken the wind out of the movement’s sails, ACU was nonetheless firmly cemented on the political scene as the flagship of the conservative movement. Under Crane, it turned its attention to activism on high-profile, high-stakes national issues with less heed paid to squabbles with the GOP or other conservative groups. The task force concept was given much greater emphasis as ACU recruited leading experts backed by budgets and ACU staff to tackle such topics as energy policy, tax reform and defense. These led to major ACU successes, such as the Stop OSHA project and airline deregulation.

The two most profound ACU initiatives under Crane’s leadership were the campaign against President Carter’s proposed giveaway of the Panama Canal and the start of a project to defeat the SALT II arms control treaty. ACU’s Panama Canal effort projected the conservative message to the general public more widely and strongly than at any time since Goldwater’s campaign. High-profile “Truth Squads” crisscrossed the country. A TV documentary was produced, ads in newspapers and on radio were placed, rallies were held, letter-writing and petition campaigns were launched, and direct lobbying of Congress was ongoing. ACU membership soared to 325,000 and income topped $3 million by December 1978.

Under Crane's leadership, ACU membership, income, scope of activity and staff stood at record levels. Crane stepped down as chairman in order to seek the 1980 GOP presidential nomination.

In his recent Washington Times article "Phil Crane, a positive force of modern conservatism ", Former Chairman David Keene reflected on Crane by saying:

"A few years ago, my wife and I joined another friend in bringing Phil and his wife a turkey on Thanksgiving. By that time, neither he nor his wife got out much, so we went to them. It was an enjoyable way to spend the holiday with a man I had admired during my student days, worked and traveled with over the years and who served as chairman of the American Conservative Union for much of the time I served on the organization’s board. I’ll always be glad that we took the Cranes that turkey, and I’ll always be proud of the fact that we were friends to the end.

Phil Crane should be remembered in any history of American conservatism, for without him and the hard volunteer work he put in over so many years, many conservatives more familiar to today’s generation might never have become a part of the movement at all."