Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler’s desire to dedicate herself to Christian service is one that lasted until the day of her death on Jan. 2. Her joyful spirit and cheerful attitude will be sorely missed by those who knew her. She served as executive director of national WMU from 1974 to 1989.
Mattie Carolyn Weatherford was born to farmers Rufus Clark and Doris Elizabeth Sansing Weatherford on Jan. 17, 1930. The Weatherfords made their home in Frostproof, Fla., but were in House, Miss., when their daughter was born. Crumpler grew up in a household devoted to missions, as her mother involved Crumpler and her siblings in as many activities as their Baptist church offered.
She professed Christ when she was 12, and following the example of her mother, a GA (Girls in Action) leader, Crumpler became a GA counselor by the time she was 14. Her service at such a young age did not go unnoticed by visiting WMU leaders, and at the age of 16, with the invitation of a Florida WMU state officer, Crumpler and a friend were off to Ridgecrest, N.C., for a young women’s conference.
Crumpler taught her community’s first Vacation Bible School, and, as a junior in high school, she became the associational officer for Baptist Training Union (BTU), later serving as her church’s BTU director for all age groups. She added adult choir director to her list of activities.
Crumpler studied library science at Florida State University, and was a high school librarian for five years. However, her desire to commit to Christian service on a full-time basis would not subside, so she entered New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where she earned a master’s degree in religious education. Crumpler began her career with WMU in 1958 after being denied foreign missionary candidacy because of hypertension. Crumpler did not let that stop her from serving in WMU.
From 1961 to 1963, she worked with GAs through Florida WMU, and from 1963 to 1967, she served in Alabama as WMU promotion director. Next, she took on the position of executive director of Florida WMU.
After representing Southern Baptists in the Women’s Continental Assembly of 1972, Crumpler became chief executive of national WMU. During her tenure, she coauthored “My Life More Fit for Him,” a book on physical and spiritual well-being, with staff member Barbara Massey, and wrote a number of other works.
“When Carolyn was elected as executive director, she came with years of experience in state WMU work,” reflected Wanda S. Lee, executive director of national WMU. “Working with a board composed of many state staff members, she brought an understanding of the challenges of their work and fresh ideas for new ways to work together. She laid a strong foundation for the partnership that exists today between the national office and our state WMU partners. Her love for missions and missionaries will continue to inspire all of us who lead today to stay faithful to the purpose of WMU.”
During the years she led national WMU, the organization experienced growth in church missions organizations; began several initiatives including Acteens Activators, Baptist Nursing Fellowship, and New Hope Publishers; and moved from downtown Birmingham to its current location at 100 Missionary Ridge.
She had an intense desire to help children of missionaries (MKs), and invited many of them to dinner at her house when they were in Birmingham for school. Starting in 1980, she served on the Baptist World Alliance’s (BWA) General Council and became chairman of the Baptist World Aid Committee in 1985. She attended BWA meetings faithfully, and was the first woman to chair the North American Baptist Fellowship.
When she became president of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary National Alumni Association, 1984–85, she became the first woman to chair a Southern Baptist seminary’s alumni association (other than the WMU Training School/Carver School of Missions at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). She was awarded honorary doctorates from William Carey College, Mobile College, Campbell University, Georgetown College, and Houston Baptist University.
In 1989, Crumpler retired from WMU and married James Joseph (“Joe”) Crumpler, a widower who was then pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, Cincinnati, Ohio. She moved to Cincinnati and continued to be active in missions work, both nationally and with local ministries in the Cincinnati area. After her retirement, Crumpler became involved with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, serving as moderator in 1995-96.
In recent years, despite many health problems, Crumpler remained active in missions and sharing the love of Christ. She is survived by her husband and a host of family members.
Visitation will be Jan. 23, 4:30-7:30 p.m. at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 8645 Kenwood Road, Cincinnati, Ohio. A memorial service, also at the church, will be held on Jan. 24 at 9:30 a.m.