But Crayton -- a three-term Columbia City Councilwoman who represented the First Ward -- also left a powerful political legacy, built on a unique communication style that delivered insights about everything from inner city poverty to City Hall policy. She spoke with humor, brevity, and punch, through sickness and health, for nearly 20 years.
"Almeta Crayton is unique in Columbia political history," Trib publisher Hank Waters wrote in 2002. "Before Almeta, no person in Columbia government had done what she does."
We've collected "Almetaisms" going back to 1994, from the Columbia Daily Tribune, Columbia Missourian, Mizzou Maneater, Google news archives, City Council minutes, and personal recollections. As 2013 winds down, it seems a fitting reminder of Crayton's most important gifts.
Crayton on crime and curfews
Almeta Crayton told the two candidates that they need to do more to stop repeat offenders who receive little punishment for their crimes. "It's frustrating seeing the same people over and over doing the same crimes,'' she said.
"You can build all the jails you want. But if you’re just going to put police state down here, it’s not going to work."
"Our kids are in places that they have no business. We need to hold parents responsible."
"The Columbia Police Department is not a baby sitter, and it shouldn’t have to be. We need to help find alternatives for these kids."
On City Hall
"In Columbia, there’s not many black officials. You have to have somebody to talk with that understands you."
"The City Council can make decisions that affect people. But you can’t lead where you don’t go. You’ve got to get in the neighborhoods."
"It's like my neighborhood is on fire, and all you're doing is
putting it out with little Dixie cups full of water."
On government assistance
"For 30 years we’ve been at war with poverty. But we haven’t begun to scuffle yet."
At the annual League of Women Voters town meeting with state lawmakers, Crayton, in a shaky voice, demanded to know why bureaucratic red tape always seems to defeat her attempts to become self-sufficient.
"They will not pay for a baby sitter for me to go look for a job. But they will pay for me to go to a bar and call it 'respite care'."
"If you try to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, it seems there is someone at the top of the hole to kick you back in."
"I would love to work. I want a job."
"I want people to say, 'Here's a lady, given a chance, who can help herself progress.'''
On City Hall's well-known neglect of the First Ward
Crayton said her world is one neglected by Columbia government and hurt by poor policy decisions. She wants to change that. "It ought to be against the law the way we’re represented."
"It's like my neighborhood is on fire, and all you're doing is putting it out with little Dixie cups full of water."
"The Katy trail may be important to somebody, but safe streets and buses are important to the people down here. They pay taxes, too."
"I’m going to work on them. But if they don’t come, I’m not going to let the city of Columbia burn down."
"You can't lead where you don't go."
On how to change City Hall neglect of the First Ward
"We want the cavalry to come in and save us. But baby, sometimes you’re going to be waiting a long time, so you have to do something for yourself."
"We want to mobilize people. We want to make some changes. If it means at the ballot box, that’s where it’s going to be."
"The only way they’re going to have a voice is to get involved in the process. The first way is to register. The second way is to vote."
"Enough is enough. We’re going to take the bull by the horns."
"It ought to be against the law the way we’re represented."
On non-profits seeking "anti-poverty" grants
"Don't use my neighborhood to pay your salaries."
On Heibel-March and Blind Boone
"They're deliberately letting it fall apart, to blight out the neighborhood. Same with the Blind Boone Home."
On public service
"All I want to do is try. I can do no worse than anybody else."
"With me on the Council, you will be able to see there is another Columbia."
"My grandmother taught me to never forget the bridge that took you over because you might have to cross it again."
"These are the people that they claim nobody can get near. These are the people that have fallen so far down in the cracks that they can’t get their heads out. I wouldn’t dare give up on them."
Almeta’s lament: Are her criticisms fair?
Crayton blasts council inaction: First Ward demands attention, she says.
Crayton complains of prostitution, drug crime
Crayton’s call for crackdown stirs council
Crayton honored by caucus