Chris Crowe, president of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Congressional Staff Association and a longtime legislative aide to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), died Wednesday after a bout with meningitis.
Crowe, 29, had open-heart surgery last summer after being stricken with meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Friends say he looked to be on the road to recovery, but Crowe took ill last week with a staph infection that caused severe heart damage.
He was on bypass, but when doctors removed him from the machine, his aorta blew and they were unable to stop the bleeding in time.
Originally from Kentucky, Crowe was full of Southern charm and friendly warmth, said Kat Skiles, Crowe’s friend and communications director for the LGBT Congressional Staff Association.
“To call this a tragedy would be an incredible understatement,” Skiles said. “It’s devastating to fathom an individual as kind, strong and spirited as Chris leaving us due to troubles with, of all things, his heart. We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones and family.”
Crowe became president of the organization in September, after it relaunched in May with an increased emphasis on outwardly showcasing the presence of gay staffers working on the Hill.
In a statement, Johnson called him a dedicated legislative assistant that was respected by his colleagues for his professionalism.
“He was beloved by many for his generous spirit and good humor,” the Texas Democrat said. “He was a person who enjoyed life and always had a smile to share. He never met a stranger.”
A service has yet to be announced, but well-wishers can sign a book of condolences on Friday in Johnson’s D.C. office in Room 2468 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
Crowe grew up in Gamaliel, Ky., and studied government and global securities at Johns Hopkins University before coming to the Hill to work as a staff assistant for Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).
In 2006 he started as a staff assistant in Johnson’s office, and last year he was promoted to legislative assistant.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.