Lawyer Randy Crumpton dies at 53; connected film, music, political communities
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Attorney Randy Crumpton knew how to navigate contracts, statutes, regulations, rulings, mandates and decrees.
Outside the courtroom, he reveled in the transcendent power of art.
He linked people in law, hip-hop, house music, film and politics. Through introductions and encouragement, “He brought everyone together,” said singer Terisa Griffin.
“He was one of Chicago’s premier socialite-connectors, particularly for the African-American community,” said friend James Ramos.
“The loss is massive,” said club owner Joe Shanahan.
For 20 years, he chaired the Black Perspectives committee of the Chicago Film Festival, showcasing stories from the African diaspora. He also organized local events for the Miami Beach-based American Black Film Festival.
And, “He was a ‘house head,’ ” said his friend, Ken Bennett, father of Chance the Rapper and hip-hop artist Taylor Bennett.
He was a friend of Frankie Knuckles, the late deejay dubbed the godfather of house music. He advised Knuckles on legal matters and co-founded the Frankie Knuckles Foundation, said Alan King, one of the “Chosen Few,” a collective of deejays who championed the genre. Mr. Crumpton helped preserve Knuckles’ massive vinyl collection by getting it displayed at the Stony Island Arts Bank, said friend Frederick Dunson.
He started connecting people across Chicago political circles as a teen, when he worked alongside Ken Bennett’s mother on Harold Washington’s mayoral campaign. “He’s like a member of the Bennett family,” Ken Bennett said.
Mr. Crumpton thought nothing of traveling to New York to see a play by August Wilson or a concert by soprano Kathleen Battle, or hopping on a plane to London to attend a Knuckles appearance.
He died Monday at 53. Mr. Crumpton was being treated for multiple myeloma, friends said.
He had a hand in bringing many stars to Chicago Film Festival events, including actors Halle Berry, Viola Davis, Taye Diggs, Morgan Freeman, Terrence Howard and Sidney Poitier, as well as directors Spike Lee, Steve McQueen and Barry Jenkins. And, he was “absolutely instrumental” in bringing “Black Panther” costume designer Ruth E. Carter to the fest, said its artistic director, Mimi Plauche.
Michael Kutza, founder of the festival, said Mr. Crumpton was a reliable, calm presence, telling him, “ ‘You know, Michael, everything is going to be all right’ — and usually, he was right.”
In 2008, he helped arrange for Jennifer Hudson to perform at a CFF tribute to Poitier. “Jennifer sang to Sidney at the event,” said Plauche.
Mr. Crumpton had been working on a film based on the Warehouse, the club where Knuckles deejayed, Shanahan said. And, he wrote and produced his own short film, “The Truth,” directed by “CSI:NY” actor Hill Harper.
Griffin, who sang and acted in “The Truth,” called him “This wonderful teddy bear … There was nothing about him that seemed complicated or untrue.”
“Once he fell in love with your art form, he was going to somehow sell tickets, find a way to get people to see you,” Griffin said. She recalled once looking up from her set at City Winery to see that Mr. Crumpton had entered, bringing along costume designer Carter, fashion designer Michael Alan Stein and actress Regina Taylor.
On Facebook, Taylor called him “Kind and good and tough and brilliant and beautiful!”
Though low-key and patient, he remained “one of the smartest people in the room,” Shanahan said.
Plauche said he also founded a Langston Hughes tribute, once enlisting “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett for the Chicago event.
He grew up in Roseland. His parents, Samantha and Pete Crumpton, were from Wabbaseka, Ark. Young Randy attended Van Vlissingen grade school and Percy L. Julian High School, said his cousin, Pam Clanton. He studied at Southern Illinois University and earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said Ramos. He went to law school at the University of Iowa. Later, he worked as a court-appointed attorney in the Child Protection Division of Cook County juvenile court.
Mr. Crumpton decorated his Bronzeville home with photos of inspirational African-Americans including Mayor Washington and writers Hughes and James Baldwin. He loved Italian food and the movies “Moonlight” and “Imitation of Life.”
He was a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.
With Ramos, he’d been planning to hold a Wakanda-themed Oscar watch party.
Mr. Crumpton is survived by his sister, Betty, and brothers Jerome, Cornell, Clarence and Ray. Visitation is 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25 at Leak & Sons Funeral Home, 7838 S. Cottage Grove. The funeral home said a prepast-wake is scheduled at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 at Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church, 4100 S. King Drive, followed by an 11 a.m. service.