Crumbo was born in Lexington, Oklahoma, the son of an Indian mother and a French father. He attended government schools as a child and showed such promise that he received a scholarship to the American Indian Institute in Wichita for his last two years of high school. While at the Institute, he became interested in expressing Indian tradition and culture through his art. After three years at the University of Wichita he transferred to the University of Oklahoma where he studied with Oscar B. Jacobson. At the early age of 21, Crumbo was appointed Director of Indian Art at Bacone College, the only institute of higher learning exclusively for Indians. Bacone offered Crumbo the unique opportunity to familiarize himself with his heritage and to instill in him cultural pride. At that time he conducted research into Indian design and revived ancient techniques of silverwork, vegetable dying, and weaving.
Crumbo’s career has been diverse; known also as a musician and Indian ceremonial dancer, Crumbo played the cedar wood flute and danced with Thurlow Lieurance’s symphony in Wichita. He also worked as a designer with the Douglas Corporation, with the Gilcrease Collection in Tulsa, and from 1960 to 1968 as curator of the El Paso Museum of Art.
A Pottawatomie Indian, Crumbo explores in his art the traditions and ceremonies of his own tribe as well as those of the Creek, Sioux, and Kiowa nations, and says of his work, “I have always painted with the desire of developing Indian art so that it may be judged on art standards rather on its value as a curio—I am attempting to record Indian customs and legends now, while they are alive, to make them a part of the great American culture before these, too, become lost, only to be fragmentarily pieced together by fact and supposition.
Crumbo works in oil and egg tempera, as well as in watercolor, sculpture, stained glass, and silkscreen. Under the guidance of Olle Nordmark, he also learned etching. The largest collection of Crumbo’s work, about 175 paintings, is owned by the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, although his work has been exhibited in many museums throughout the United States.
Virginia Mecklenburg The Public as Patron: A History of the Treasury Department Mural Program (College Park, Maryland: University of Maryland, n.d.)