Barbara Jones has lived on the 1000 block of North Leclaire in Austin for 12 years and during that time she’s considered her neighbor, Lethea Crump, to be a grandmother figure.
That’s why it seemed natural for Jones to be the one to plan a special commemoration for Crump’s 100 birthday party.
Community leaders and neighbors gathered on Crump’s porch on Sept. 22 to celebrate the woman many described as Mother Crump — a West Side matriarch.
During Thursday’s gathering, Rev. Ira Acree, the pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin, said although Crump never had children of her own, she’s been a surrogate mother to “many in our community and across the country.”
Crump was raised in Clarksdale Mississippi, and moved to Memphis at the age of 18. She moved to Chicago at the age of 35 and has remained here ever since.
Rosemary Douglas, aged 79, stated that Crump met her when she was just 18 years old, and they have since moved all over the West Side.
“We stayed on Kolin together, side by side, then she moved on Washington and on Washington she stayed down on another block from me, then we stayed on West End together,” Douglas said.
“Then she came on LeClaire and I came on LeClaire and bought the building right next to her,” she said. “I learned from her to always love people. Help them and God will always help you.”
Nowadays, Crump can’t hear well but she still lives an active life and has the mental clarity of someone much younger. As 37th Ward Ald. Emma Mitts, the 37th Ward Ald., read a resolution in honor of Crump. The 100-year old seemed to jump for joy as she sat down.
“The Lord brought me all the way,” Crump said. “I never missed work unless I was sick, up until I retired … I got up early every morning and took care of my mama for 14 years before she passed away when she was in her 80s.”
Jones stated that Crump lives with her nephew but is quite independent.
“She does everything on her own,” Jones said. “Yesterday she was cleaning up the kitchen — all the cabinets, all of that, all on her own. She’s out here doing her yard. She tries to pull up her weeds. She sweeps the outside and inside of the gates. One day she saw me out there doing my weeds and said, ‘Baby let me tell you how to do these weeds.’ Yea she’s not one for sitting around. She’s very alert.”
Rev. Acree said Crump’s “resilient life story must be told and celebrated,” before mentioning all of the world-historical milestones she’s lived through.
“She survived the Great Depression, World War II, the Lynch law era and the ride on the back of the bus period in our history,” Acree said.
“For this centenarian to witness the election of the first Black president, the first woman vice president who also happens to be Black, and the appointment of the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court should give America hope, especially in this era of intense social unrest,” he added.
Crump attributes her long life to her faith in God and her love for people.
“I love people,” Crump said. “I fed them, I took them in my house, they lived with me if they had money or not. God will bless you if you live for Him. Don’t go around saying ‘I’m living for the lord and you don’t like people.’ It doesn’t work like that. God don’t work like that.”
CONTACT: [email protected]