Woody Crumbo

Wichita Urban Native History Tour

Woody Crumbo

Wichita, Kansas 67203, United States

Created By: Wichita History Walk


Native American artist Woodrow Wilson “Woody“ Crumbo was known throughout the world as an amazing artist, musician and ceremonial dancer. Throughout Crumbo’s lifetime, he was continuously honored for his ability to capture and express native culture with his artwork and music. He was a lifelong learner of different formats and techniques, as well as a teacher and advocate for the use of various art forms to portray and conserve Native American culture and traditions. Crumbo’s main pursuit was to increase understanding between Native Americans and other Americans. His work is displayed in collections all over the world including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and of Queen Elizabeth of England.

Crumbo was born in Lexington, Oklahoma in 1912. His mother was a Citizen Band Potawatomi and his father’s parents immigrated from Germany. In 1916 after his father died, he moved to Kansas with his mother. In 1919, Crumbo lost his mother as well.

Crumbo came to Wichita when he received a scholarship to the American Indian Institute, a Presbyterian school just north of the Wichita State University campus. The school was geared towards young American Indians who showed exceptional talents. While there, he expressed great interest in Indian culture and traditions through his art. Crumbo graduated as valedictorian of his class.

In 1933, he enrolled at the University of Wichita, where he studied with two of the university’s most renowned faculty members, Thurlow Lieurance and Clayton Henri Staples. Lieurance was a great musician and composer and served as the University of Wichita’s Dean of Fine Arts from 1926 to 1946. Staples was a master watercolorist. Both of these men would go on to become not just instructors, but two of Crumbo's closest friends. In 1936 he went to the University of Oklahoma where he studied painting and drawing for his last two years of formal schooling.

Throughout the 20s and 30s, Liuerance would come to national prominence for his championing of Native American music, and he would tour the world with his Minisa Orchestra and Chorus, which sometimes featured Crumbo as the head dancer. In 1941, Lieurance and Crumbo would return to Wichita University to perform at the Wichita Auditorium (Wilner) to raise money following the Blitz.

Crumbo came back to live in Wichita during the aviation boom, and took a job as a designer at Cessna Aircraft. In 1941, he married Lillian Faye Hogue and the couple lived in Wichita for a short time. The couple eventually moved to Taos, New Mexico, where he started a studio and educational campaign. Crumbo then served as curator and then Director of the El Paso, Texas Museum of Art from 1960-1968 before living again in New Mexico, Colorado and Oklahoma.

Woody Crumbo passed away in 1989 in Cimarron, New Mexico and his body was returned for burial to Okmulgee, Oklahoma. There is a Woody Crumbo Memorial Garden in the grounds at the Mid-America All Indian Museum honoring his legacy.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Wichita Urban Native History Tour


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